Editor’s Note: This story has been slightly modified since original publication. At that time, resumption of MLB play was, as widely reported, set for April 7 which, according to the league’s original 2022 schedule, would have had the White Sox visiting the KC Royals. The Royals later published an updated schedule on their website, which indicates the club’s opener will be April 8 when they host Cleveland. Some teams will still start April 7.
With a new club-initiated deadline to get a deal done looming over them Tuesday, major league owners and players appeared on the verge of a deal ending the MLB lockout and sending all teams, including the Royals, back to work. Their continuing exchanges of offers created an atmosphere eerily reminiscent of last week, when an agreement seemed close at hand.
It turned out labor and management were never close enough last week, and hope for a welcome conclusion to an ugly chapter in the game’s history quickly evaporated when the owners made an offer the union could easily, and did, refuse without much delay.
And when MLB (the clubs) extended its newest deadline to reach an accord from Tuesday until Wednesday, things really began to feel like last week. But early Wednesday evening, clubs didn’t counter the players’ proposal concerning the international draft concept and qualifying offers, but instead canceled another two regular season series.
But today, the parties came through, proving they can get more than one thing right (they’d both previously created $1 million funds to help workers affected by the lockout), and managed to get a global deal finished. The owners and union rank and file must formally ratify the agreement, but in reality it’s a deal done and in—as a practical matter, negotiators couldn’t have arrived at this point without the approval of their constituencies, so expect owners and players to bless the accords quickly.
The combined international draft-qualifying offer consensus the parties reached Thursday morning spurred the final accord forward. But what’s the rest of the deal, and what does it mean for the Royals?
What are the major components of the new agreement for the KC Royals?
According to The Athletic’s Evan Drellich (Twitter link), the deal includes at least these components upon which the parties managed to narrow originally deep chasms:
Competitive Balance Tax. The CBT (Luxury Tax) will start at $230 million and top out at $244 million. The clubs moved significantly toward the players over the past week.
Minimum salary. Initial and subsequent increases in the players’ minimum salary, which was $570,500 last season, will move major league base pay to $700,000 per season and escalate to $780,000 by the end of the new CBA.
Universal DH. Not surprisingly, the designated hitter rule has been extended to the National League. Unless managers choose for some reason to let pitchers hit, or a DH assumes a defensive position, hideous pitcher at-bats are a thing of the past for both leagues.
Pre-arbitration bonus pool. The parties agreed to create a pre-arbitration bonus pool to compensate some players not yet eligible for salary arbitration. After slowly closing a wide disparity between bargaining positions, the pool is set at $50 million.
And per ESPN’s Jeff Passan, these other pieces are also part of the new deal:
Playing rules changes. The players agreed to allow, beginning in 2023, to unilaterally impose playing rules changes as long as they give the union 45 days advance notice.
What’s that mean for the short term? Anticipate implementation of slightly bigger bases, a pitch clock and some kind of ban on defensive shifts next season.
Uniform ads. Teams are now allowed to place sponsor emblems on player uniforms, a revenue-generating tool other sports have long employed.
Expanded playoffs. Here, the owners get a significant part of what they wanted. Instead of expanding postseason participation from 10 to 14 teams, 12 clubs will now get in. Club television revenues will now be greater.
When will spring training begin for the KC Royals and other clubs?
The Washington Post’s Chelsea Janes reports (Twitter link) that players must report to spring camps by Sunday. So, the Royals are headed for their Surprise, Arizona camp.
When will the KC Royals open the season, and what about canceled games?
All canceled games are back on and will be made up via a three-day extension of the season and previously unscheduled doubleheaders.
As noted at the beginning of this story, Kansas City will open the 2022 season at home against Cleveland. The Royals had been slated to visit Cleveland for the Guardians’ originally-scheduled March 31 home opener.
Because the 162-game schedule is being restored, players will receive full service time credits and full pay.
Can the KC Royals negotiate with free agents or engage in trades yet?
Not this very moment, but soon. The MLB lockout froze all dealings, including including trades and free agent negotiations and signings. The market is expected to reopen as soon as tonight, so look for a lot of fast-moving deal and trade developments.
The MLB lockout is over. The Royals are getting back to work.