As Baseball Rejoices Labor Peace, CBA Should Open Floodgates on MLB Hot Stove

Jacob Shafer@@jacobshaferFeatured ColumnistDecember 1, 2016

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred
MLB Commissioner Rob ManfredElsa/Getty Images

All together now, baseball fans: Whew.

With the hours ticking down until MLB's collective bargaining agreement expired Dec. 1, the league and players union agreed to a new pact Wednesday night, per Fox Sports' Ken Rosenthal.

With that, baseball avoided its first labor stoppage since the devastating strike of 1994-95, which wiped out the World Series and gave a generation of young fans—including yours truly—their first bitter taste of sports cynicism. 

Forget the details of the new deal for a moment, though we'll delve into that shortly. Take a second and let the relief wash over you.

The 1994-95 strike hurt a generation of baseball fans.
The 1994-95 strike hurt a generation of baseball fans.Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images

We can spend the winter arguing about trades and free-agent deals rather than watching a bunch of millionaires haggle with a bunch of billionaires. Feels good, right?

Oh, sure, a lockout wouldn't have brought on the apocalypse, per se. It might have only meant a few weeks of tension and cuticle-gnawing, with no lasting harm done.

By avoiding a strike altogether, though, MLB ensured the good mojo from 2016's historic, thrilling World Series will keep flowing.

Really, we should tip our collective cap. The NFL's and NBA's most recent lockouts were in 2011; the NHL's was in 2012 (though it ended in January 2013). Baseball, meanwhile, is closing in on three decades of labor stability.

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If that were a stat, it'd be in the record books, as FanRag Sports' Jon Heyman noted:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

Once ratified, new CBA will stretch MLB record of labor peace to 27 years. a DiMaggio-like streak

Tip your cap also to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred, who expressed optimism Saturday. 

"I still believe we’re going to reach an agreement," he said, per Heyman. Turns out, he was right.

OK, now to the particulars. 

More details will continue to trickle out, but for now Heyman laid out some key provisions of the new CBA (via Dan Werly of the White Bronco). 

Teams that extend qualifying offers to free agents will still receive draft-pick compensation but not in the first round. That's a significant concession to players, whose value was frequently diminished by the old QO system.

There will not be an international draft, another concession by the owners, though international signings will be capped at $5 million to $6 million per year.

Rosters will remain at 25 rather than 26, a minor walk-back on the part of the players union, which would obviously prefer to see more bodies on MLB rosters.

Finally, and probably most significantly, the luxury-tax threshold will move sensibly northward, as USA Today's Bob Nightengale explained:

The tax will start with payrolls exceeding $195 million in 2017, up from $189 million this year, increase to $197 million in 2018; $206 million in 2019; $208 million in 2020 and $210 million in 2021. It still leaves the Los Angeles Dodgers, New York Yankees, Boston Red Sox and Detroit Tigers over the limit in 2017.

Many clubs were surely waiting to see where that number landed before committing big dollars in free agency or taking on expensive contracts via trade.

Now, at the risk of mixing metaphors, the hot-stove floodgates will open.

There has been some action this winter. Yoenis Cespedes inked a four-year, $110 million deal with the New York Mets before news of the new CBA broke.

Yoenis Cespedes was the only top-tier free agent to sign before news of the new CBA broke.
Yoenis Cespedes was the only top-tier free agent to sign before news of the new CBA broke.Jim McIsaac/Getty Images

Most of the marquee names remained on the board, however, and it seemed destined to stay that way until the other cleat dropped.

A lockout could have also killed the winter meetings, per ESPN the Magazine's Buster Olney:

Buster Olney @Buster_ESPN

Sources: Club officials understand that if sufficient progress isn't made this week in CBA talks, teams won't participate in winter meetings

Instead, the meetings will kick off as scheduled Dec. 4 in Maryland. Elite names such as ace closers Aroldis Chapman and Kenley Jansen and sluggers Edwin Encarnacion and Mark Trumbo will find homes or at least have their tires kicked in earnest.

Sellers like the Detroit Tigers could begin to offload assets, especially now that they know where they stand on the luxury-tax front. Prospect-rich buyers, including the Boston Red Sox and Los Angeles Dodgers, should become more active.

It's worth noting, as a caveat, that the details of the CBA were being ironed out as of this writing and nothing was officially ratified.

Let's assume there are no 11th-hour snags, however. Rumors will fly. The balance of power will shift. The offseason will continue apace.

Most essentially, as winter cedes to spring, there will be baseball.

All together now: Whew.


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