After months of snail-paced, contentious and frustrating negotiations, baseball averted a lengthy shutdown as MLB and players union negotiators reached a new labor agreement Thursday.
The agreement became official after the 30 owners unanimously voted to ratify it Thursday night.
Players can report to spring training as early as Friday, and Sunday is the mandatory report date, except for players with visa issues.
Opening Day will be April 7, and the season will be extended three days to play doubleheaders to make up games previously scheduled March 31-April 6.
Tuesday was MLB’s self-imposed deadline to avoid canceling the second week of games. The league and union met for close to 17 hours, talks that yielded enough progress to push the deadline into Wednesday.
The two sides reconvened Wednesday but hit a roadblock on MLB’s proposal to implement an international draft. They reached a provisional agreement on that issue Thursday morning.
The league and locked-out players, far apart on key economic issues since MLB implemented the lockout in December, closed those gaps in recent days.
The luxury tax was the biggest issue in the labor battle. MLB and the union agreed to a threshold of $230 million in 2022 — about a 10 percent increase from 2021 — that will increase to $244 million by 2026.
Other elements of the agreement:
— Minimum player salary will rise to $700,000 in 2022 (from $570,500 in 2021) and increase $20,000 the ensuing four seasons.
— A bonus pool for productive pre-arbitration players of $50 million
— Expanding the postseason field to 12 teams
— A universal designated hitter
— MLB and the union will negotiate on a potential international draft. If they reach an agreement by July 25, draft pick compensation attached to lost top free agents will be eliminated. Otherwise, both systems will remain status quo.
— A 20-round amateur draft
— A six-pick draft lottery
Thursday was the 99th day of the lockout. It ends as the second-longest work stoppage in baseball history, behind the 1994-95 union strike that wiped out the World Series.