MLB, players union agree to new CBA in time to avoid lockout

(Rob Manfred)

Major League Baseball has secured a new collective bargaining agreement with its players' association to avert the prospect of a lockout next season.

There will be no work stoppage in 2017 or in four seasons thereafter, after the sides agreed in principle to a new five-year deal on Wednesday.

MLB announced a resolution was reached three hours ahead of the stipulated midnight deadline.

"The parties continue to draft the entirety of the tentative agreement," MLB said in a statement. "Specific terms of the pact will be made available when the drafting process is complete."

Baseball has enjoyed two decades without labour disruption in the wake of the 1994-95 strike, which was the fourth work stoppage to affect games in a 22-year span.

MLB commissioner Rob Manfred was predecessor Bud Selig's point man during the previous three CBA negotiations, so he knows the issues as well as anyone, but the view is different from the top.

On the union side, Tony Clark has also been involved in past talks, but this is his first time in charge of the players' side of the process following the 2013 death of former executive director Michael Weiner.

As negotiations intensified leading up to the deadline, various reports indicated most of the items up for discussion had been settled, with one key provision still up in the air: the luxury tax imposed on teams that break the $189 million player-payroll threshold.

Though several teams have exceeded that number since it was imposed and duly paid the financial penalty, the players have increasingly viewed the figure as a de facto salary cap. The New York Post reported the limit will be increased from the current $189 million to $195 million in 2017, with annual raises that would reach $210 million by the end of the agreement.

The other key point of contention that had generated the most discussion in recent months was MLB's plan to institute an international draft. The measure would have primarily affected prospects from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, and players from those countries and agents who represent them have been outspoken in their opposition to a draft, which would have amounted to a cost-saving measure for the owners.

MLB backed down on the proposal in recent days, according to multiple reports, though changes to the way teams sign international players are included in the CBA. Namely, teams will be capped on the number of international players they're allowed to sign each year, baseball insider Jon Heyman reported.

One element that was expected to be included, increasing the active roster from 25 to 26 players, was a surprise omission.

Other changes expected to be part of a finalized deal include eliminating the requirement that teams give up a draft pick in exchange for signing a free agent who had received a qualifying offer from his previous team - a significant win for the players whose potential destinations were limited by that penalty - and adding more off days to the schedule format.