Major League baseball, unlike the National Basketball Association, has a new labor agreement, one attained with no strikes, lockouts, or threats to the season. Here are some highlights:
•HGH [human growth hormone]: Baseball will be the first North American team sport with HGH blood testing once it begins next spring. All players will be tested during spring training and will be subject to random offseason tests. The sides agreed to explore in-season tests, which can be conducted on a “reasonable cause” basis, which was not immediately defined. Weiner said the union wanted to learn more about the effect of taking blood on players’ performances. A first positive test would result in a 50-game suspension.
•Replay: Expansion of video review from the current limit of potential home runs is subject to negotiations between MLB and the World Umpires Association. But MLB and the players agreed to add fair/foul calls and whether balls are caught or trapped.
•Playoffs: The addition of a second wild-card team in each league was announced last week; each league’s two wild cards will meet in one-game playoffs for the right to advance to the division series. If a decision is reached by March 1, the format will make its debut in 2012; if not, the wild cards will be added for 2013.
•Realignment: As previously announced, the Houston Astros will move from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013. That means interleague play virtually every day of the season. A committee has been formed to work out the scheduling formula.
•Draft: Players taken in the June draft can sign only minor league contracts, eliminating major league deals agents often bargained for. The signing deadline for drafted players will move from Aug. 15 to July 12-18.
The most significant change is a compromise on owners’ hopes for a bonus slotting system. Teams will be assigned an annual pool based on industry revenue, which will cover bonuses to picks in the first 10 rounds plus any bonuses over $100,000 to later picks. Teams can spend beyond the pool but will be subject to penalties: 75% tax on amounts up to 5% over the pool; 75% tax and loss of first-round pick for 5%-10% over pool; 100% tax and loss of first- and second-round picks for 10%-15% over; 100% tax and loss of two first-round picks for more than 15% over. Teams’ bonus pools will be determined by their draft position and number of draft choices.
Tax money will go into revenue sharing for teams that did not exceed their pool; those teams also will garner the forfeited picks through a weighted lottery based on teams’ records.
•Competitive balance lottery: Will provide extra draft picks for the lowest-revenue and smallest-market teams. The first 10 teams in each category will be in a lottery — weighted by previous year’s record — for six extra picks after the first round. Teams not getting a pick in that lottery will go into a similar lottery for six picks after the second round.
•Free agent compensation: Rules for compensating teams that lose free agents will be abolished. Instead, teams will be eligible for compensation if they offer the player a contract equal to the average salary of the 125 highest-paid players from the previous year. That was just over $12 million last season. The offer must be made within five days of the end of the World Series, and the player has seven days to accept. Only players with their team for the entire season are subject to compensation.
Teams signing a compensation-eligible player lose their first-round draft pick unless that pick is in the first 10, in which case they lose their next pick. Teams that lose such a free agent get an extra draft pick after the first round.
•International free agents: A committee will begin studying drafting of international players. In the meantime, teams will be assigned equal signing bonus pools for the year beginning next July.
•Social media: All players will be subject to a new policy.
•Salaries: The minimum rises from $414,000 to $480,000 and incrementally to $500,000 in 2014, followed by cost-of-living raises the next two years.
•Smokeless tobacco: Players, managers and coaches cannot use tobacco when fans are present or in televised interviews, nor can they carry the products in their uniforms.
•Equipment: Beginning in 2013, no player entering the major leagues can use maple bats that have come under scrutiny for how often they break. Tougher helmet requirements will be in place as part of enhancing the concussion protocol.
•Rosters: Teams can add a 26th player for some as yet unspecified doubleheaders.