FORT MYERS, FLA – Revenue sharing? Luxury tax thresholds? Service time manipulation? Those are hot-button issues that must be tackled by Major League Baseball owners and the players association before the collective bargaining agreement expires in December 2021.
In the meantime, the sides proved Thursday they can agree on some matters, as MLB and the union announced several rules changes that will take place over the next two seasons with the goal of improving the game on and off the field. Most notably: There will be a single trade deadline, All-Stars will be voted in on an Election Day, rosters will be expanded from 25 to 26 players and the injured list will be lengthened for pitchers.
“Obviously there’s been the tensions and kind of the back and forth the past couple offseasons,” said pitcher Kyle Gibson, the Twins union representative. “I think any time both sides can work together, that’s really how it’s designed to be, and it’s not any different than any other union-employer relationship in the rest of the world. I mean, if the workers are happy with who is running the workers, then everybody is happy, so I think it’s meant for both sides to work together.”
The changes that begin for the 2019 season could have some impact:
• Between-inning breaks will be reduced from 2 minutes, 5 seconds for local broadcasts to 2:00. Breaks on national broadcasts will be shortened from 2:25 to 2:00.
• The maximum number of mound visits will drop from six to five.
• There will be one nonwaiver trade deadline, on July 31. No more trades in August after players clear waivers.
“That’s another one I’ve been in favor of, thinking back the last few seasons,” Twins Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey said. “Players aren’t getting through trade waivers that often anymore. I think you have to make decisions now at the end of July. We all know deadlines drive decisions, so having one deadline I think makes that a little cleaner.”
• All-Star Game voting is going totally political, as there will be a primary round and then an Election Day on which the top three finishers in the primary go up for a vote. And the winner of the Home Run Derby will receive a cool $1 million.
And that’s just for the 2019 season.
In 2020, rosters will be expanded from 25 to 26 players — with a 27th player allowed for doubleheaders. September rosters must consist of 28 players. The injured list for pitchers will be expanded to 15 days.
And pitchers will be required to face at least three batters before being replaced, a notion that worries Gibson because it could create an advantage for the offense.
“I’m not really a big fan of that one,” he said. “I’m glad that got pushed back. I think it’s interesting to explore the pitch clock, but I think it’s pretty impossible to have more offense and a shorter game.”