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MLB players, owners reach agreement, ending 99-day lockout

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It took at least five arbitrary deadlines, but Major League Baseball finally has an agreement between players and owners, ending the lockout on its 99th day.

Representatives for both sides met in New York the last three days, working through another league-imposed deadline that on Wednesday saw the cancelation of another week of regular season games. But instead, there will be a full 162-game schedule, just modified a bit.

Thursday at noon PT was the fifth arbitrary deadline in 11 days, one by which the MLBPA agreed to the owners’ latest offer.

On March 1, after nine days of in-person bargaining between representatives for players and owners in Jupiter, Florida, commissioner Rob Manfred canceled the first two series of the season. At that press conference, Manfred said, “Our position is that games that are not played, the players will not get paid for.”

Those games will be played and players will be paid, and will get the opportunity to accrue a full year of service time. Amid a threat of a second week of canceled games, the players union leveraged the owners’ need for expanded postseason and the estimated $85-100 million annual boon that comes with it, per Jeff Passan at ESPN.

The competitive balance tax, and its thresholds, was a sticking point in talks. Negotiations in Florida ended last week with the players wanting a first threshold of $238 million in 2022 up to $263 million in 2026, the final year of the deal. Owners offers went from $220 million to $230 million.

Where they settled, per reports, is somewhere in the middle, and with the introduction of a new, fourth tier that is more punitive, and more in the spirit of the tax, which was implemented in 1997 to curb runaway spending.

The implementation of an international draft became a sticking point on Wednesday, such that the league announced the cancelation of a second week of games. But players and owners solved that issue by Thursday morning, giving both sides until July to agree to an international draft (which would start in 2024), or see the return of draft-pick compensation for qualified offer free agents.

We’ll dive deeper into other specific details of the agreement later, like the designated hitter coming to the National League for good, a 12-team postseason, the increased minimum salaries, limits on player options per season, and more.

“Our union endured the second-longest work stoppage in its history to achieve significant progress in key areas that will improve not just current players’ rights and benefits, but those of generations to come,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement. “Players remained engaged and unified from beginning to end, and in the process reenergized our fraternity.”

It’s unclear when spring training camps would open for players on 40-man rosters, but it figures to be some time by this weekend. To date, the start of the spring schedule has been pushed back four times, originally slated to begin on February 26 but was moved to start no earlier than March 18.

Details to follow.