Players have voted to accept Major League Baseball’s latest offer for a new labor deal, paving the way to end a 99-day lockout and salvage a 162-game regular season that would begin April 7.
The union’s executive board approved the agreement in a 26-12 vote Thursday, pending ratification by all players, a person familiar with the balloting said, speaking to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because no announcement was authorized.
MLB sent the players an offer Thursday and gave them until 3 p.m. to accept in order to play a full season. The union announced the player vote around 3:25 p.m. Owners planned to hold a ratification vote at 6 p.m.
“The deal pushes the game forward,” Yankees pitcher Gerrit Cole, a member of the union’s executive subcommitee, said in an telephone interview with The Associated Press. “It addresses a lot of the things that the players in the game should be focused on: the competitive integrity aspect of it.”
The agreement will allow training camps to open this week in Florida and Arizona, more than three weeks after they were scheduled to on Feb. 16. Fans can start making plans to be at Fenway Park, Dodger Stadium and Camden Yards next month. Opening day is being planned a little more than a week behind the original date on March 31.
The deal also will set off a rapid-fire round of free agency. Carlos Correa, Freddie Freeman and Kris Bryant are among 138 big leaguers still without a team, including some who might benefit from the adoption of a universal designated hitter.
The sport’s new collective bargaining agreement also expands the playoffs to 12 teams and introduces incentives to limit so-called “tanking.” The minimum salary will rise from $570,500 to about $700,000, and the luxury tax threshold will increase from $210 million to $230 million this year, a slight loosening for the biggest spenders such as the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers and Red Sox. A new bonus pool was established for players not yet eligible for arbitration, a way to boost salaries for young stars.
Commissioner Rob Manfred had set a Tuesday deadline for a deal that would preserve a 162-game schedule along with full pay and service time required for players to reach free agency. Talks spilled past the deadline and Manfred announced more cancellations Wednesday, increasing the total to 184 of the 2,230 games.