Sources: Handshake labor deal reached

Updated: November 19, 2011, 10:42 AM ET
By Jayson Stark | ESPN.com

Baseball's labor negotiators have reached a "handshake agreement" on all major issues, and the sport's new five-year collective bargaining agreement is likely to be announced Tuesday, sources told ESPN.com Friday.

The sources were hesitant to use words such as "done" or "over" to describe the negotiations, because the two sides are still in the process of putting the agreement into writing. However, one source went so far as to say there are "no issues that remain to be negotiated."

MLB The new labor deal will run through the 2016 season, meaning it will ensure two full decades of continuous labor peace for the first time since the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association in the 1960s.

A second source was even more reluctant to characterize the new agreement as a finished product, saying: "Either there is a signed labor deal or there isn't -- and right now, there isn't."

Nevertheless, all that stands in the way of an announcement at this point, sources said, is the writing of a legal document detailing changes between the old Basic Agreement and the deal the two sides have been negotiating for months.

The sides have essentially been in agreement on most significant issues for several days. But following this week's owners meetings, they met outside Chicago on Thursday evening to settle on the specifics on a number of matters that had needed to be resolved before the agreement could be put in writing. That session concluded early Friday.

The new labor deal will run through the 2016 season, meaning it will ensure two full decades of continuous labor peace for the first time since the formation of the Major League Baseball Players Association in the 1960s. This deal figures to be especially historic, however, as baseball positions itself for the 21st century.

Commissioner Bud Selig has already announced the move of the Houston Astros to the American League. That will pave the way for realignment of the sport into two 15-team leagues, adding a second wild-card playoff team in each league and spreading interleague play throughout all six months of the regular season.

But this agreement also will lead to significant changes to the schedule, free agency, the draft, the signing of international players, revenue sharing and the so-called "competitive balance tax."

And the addition of two more wild-card teams likely won't be the only significant change to baseball's postseason structure. A source told ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney that a past rule that teams in the same division can't play in the Division Series round likely will not be part of the new agreement.

Meanwhile, a source told ESPN Insider Jim Bowden that the new deal will include other notable changes:

• An increase in the minimum salaries (from $480,000 to $500,000) during the life of the deal.

• A larger number of players -- known as Super Two players -- will be in a position to earn arbitration eligibility with less than three years of major league service. Previously, players had to have two years and 86 days of service in the big leagues and be in the top 17 percent in total service in their class to become a Super Two player. That number will increase to more than 20 percent.

• The date for clubs to decide whether to tender contracts to players will move up by 10 days to Dec. 2.

• Teams will have to determine whether they make a qualifying offer for a free agent at a one-year guaranteed salary based on a formula. That number is likely to be upwards of $12 million, making it highly doubtful teams would use it on players who aren't superstars. If the player rejects the offer and signs with another team, the signing team loses its spot in the first round of the amateur draft and moves to the end. Teams will no longer lose a pick for signing a premium free agent.

• There will also be changes in the amount of money clubs will spend on drafted players, getting rid of the current slotting system and giving each team a pool of money to spend on its draft picks. There will be penalties for exceeding the threshold, which would range from 75-100 percent for each dollar over the line.

Changes in free-agent compensation rules won't take effect until the 2012-13 offseason, but there are expected to be temporary revisions that affect the compensation rules for certain free agents this winter. In other words, a team that signs an elite player such as Prince Fielder would still lose a top draft pick, but a Type A set-up reliever such as Darren Oliver would no longer cost the team signing him a top pick.

Jayson Stark is a senior baseball writer for ESPN.com. ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney and ESPN Insider Jim Bowden contributed to this report.

Jayson Stark | email

Senior Writer, ESPN.com

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