With a new collective bargaining agreement in place and a shortened spring training due to the 99-day lockout, there are plenty of changes coming to MLB for this season and beyond. It’s time to take a deeper dive into the new CBA and see what those changes are and what impact they may have on the game, intended or unintended.
The most expected outcome of the new CBA is the expansion of the designated hitter to the National League. In addition to this, a new rule was added that if a team wants to have the same player (*cough*Ohtani*cough*) both pitch and hit, he may be his own DH and removing him as the pitcher will not impact him continuing on as the DH.
The postseason will be expanded to twelve teams, six from each league. The two division winners with the best records will automatically advance to the Division Series. The remaining division champion and the three wild card teams will face off in a three-game series. There will not be any reseeding between the rounds.
Due to Canadian law, unvaccinated players will not be allowed to cross the border and, under the terms of the new CBA, they will not be paid or receive service time for the games missed.
The lowest level of the Competitive Balance Tax (CBT) Threshold, which most teams use as a hard salary cap, will jump to $230M for 2022. After that, there are three additional surcharge levels, which, at this point, should impact only the Dodgers, Mets, and Padres.
The minimum salary for players has increased to $700K for 2022 and will increase over each year of the CBA. In addition, there is a new pre-arbitration bonus pool of $50M has been established to reward successful seasons by younger players under team control. MVP and Cy Young winners would $2.5M while 2nd, 3rd, and 4/5th place finishers would receive $1.75M, $1.5M, and $1M respectively. Rookie of the Year winners get $750K and 2nd place finishers would take home $500K. Players named first team All-MLB get $1M while second team gets $500K. The remaining pool of bonus money will be distributed based on WAR. A single player can only receive one bonus per season.
Umpires will start using a microphone to announce replay review decisions to the crowd, helping fans better understand the outcomes of those reviews and why.
Double headers will move back to being nine-inning affairs. The ghost runner starting on second base for extra-inning games was initially eliminated, but was re-instated for 2022 due to the shortened spring training and worries about the impacts of long games to pitching staffs.
Rosters will expand to 28 players for the month of April due to the shortened spring training. Also, a limit of five has been placed on the number of times a player can be optioned to the minor leagues during a season. After that, the player must be put on waivers in order to send him down additional times. Players optioned prior to May 1st will not have that option count against the limit due to the expanded roster. This new limit does not impact the number of option years a player has.
Players now have expanded rights to engage in promotional and endorsement activities with sports betting companies. I’m sure nothing bad will come of that. Also, the MLBPA has agreed to drop their grievance from 2020 about the owners bargaining in good faith about the pandemic-shortened season as part of the new CBA. An older grievance, concerning how the Pirates, A’s, Marlins, and Rays spend their revenue-sharing dollars, is still ongoing.
Other rules changes that were part of the negotiations, like a pitch clock, shift restrictions, larger bases, and automated balls and strikes, will not be implemented until the 2023 season at the earliest.
Starting in 2023, a lottery will be implemented to determine who gets the first six picks of the draft. The 18 teams who did not make the previous postseason will be eligible with the three teams with the worst records getting a 16.5% chance at the pick and the six teams with the best records getting a less than 1% chance. Teams that receive revenue-sharing payouts will not be eligible to receive a lottery pick for more than two years in a row and those that don’t can’t get a top-six choice in consecutive drafts. Any team that is ineligible for the lottery will not be allowed to select higher than 10th overall. The draft itself will remain 20 rounds. A decision on the International Draft, and the corresponding removal of draft pick compensation, will be decided by July 25th.
MLB and MLBPA agreed to stage international games or tours over the next five years. Regular-season games will be held in Mexico City each May from 2023-26, in London in June 2023, 2024, and 2026 and in Paris in June 2025, and in San Juan, Puerto Rico, in September 2025 and 2026. A season-opening series is planned for somewhere in Asia for 2024 and Tokyo for 2025. Postseason tours are planned for South Korea and Taiwan this year and for Latin America in 2023. Spring training games are being envisioned for Puerto Rico and/or the Dominican Republic in 2024, and the World Baseball Classic returns in 2023 and 2026.
Starting in 2023, teams will play at least one series against every opponent in each league. Because of the expanded wild card, the new schedule will feature fewer divisional games, and every team will play at least one series against every other opponent, including alternating home and away series every other year against teams in the other league.
Finally, teams will be adding ad patches on their jerseys and stickers on their batting helmets starting in 2023. Unconfirmed reports say that the jersey patches will go on the sleeve and may be on different sleeves depending on which would give it more exposure. No word yet on how that would work with teams that already have one (or two) sleeve patches. The jersey sponsorships are being sold at the team level and can’t go to alcohol, gambling, or media brands. Helmet sponsorships are expected to be handled by MLB.