Sources: HGH testing in new CBA

Updated: November 20, 2011, 11:05 AM ET
ESPN.com news services

Major League Baseball's new collective bargaining agreement will include blood testing for human growth hormone, sources confirmed to ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney.

A report in the New York Times, citing two league sources familiar with the deal, said testing would begin in February during spring training. According to the sources, the penalty for a positive HGH test will be the same as a positive steroid test -- a 50-game suspension.

MLB would become the first major professional sports league in North America to test for HGH. The NFL agreed upon on HGH testing in its latest CBA, but has yet to implement it.

MLB already conducts random testing for HGH in the minor leagues, a program it began last year.

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.

Baseball's new labor contract also will include a rise in the minimum salary to $480,000 and luxury taxes on both amateur draft signings and international free agents coming to the major leagues.

There also will be a slight increase in the total of players eligible for salary arbitration after the 2012 season, when there also will be a new method to determine compensation for clubs losing top major league free agents. There also will be modifications to the luxury tax on high-payroll teams, but the threshold will remain at $178 million next year.

Sources told ESPN.com's Jayson Stark that MLB'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.

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.

The changes would be the most numerous since the 1997 agreement that came nearly two years after a 7½-month strike that wiped out the 1994 World Series. The five-year deal, replacing one set to expire Dec. 11, ensures 21 consecutive years of labor peace for MLB at a time when the NBA season is being threatened by a lockout that already has wiped out a quarter of the regular season.

As part of the deal, baseball's minimum salary will go from $414,000 this year to $480,000 in 2012 and $500,000 later in the deal -- matching what the average salary was in 1989.

Owners gained one of their chief objectives: a restraint on the bonuses paid to amateur free agents, both those entering professional baseball from high schools and colleges and those coming to MLB organizations from abroad.

A tax of 75 percent to 100 percent will be imposed on the amount a team exceeds a threshold, and teams exceeding the threshold by higher amounts could lose first- and second-round draft picks.

For international free agents, such as players from the Dominican Republic and Venezuela, there will be a separate threshold and tax with penalties, and there will be a study committee that could put a new system in place later during the agreement.

After the 2012 season, about five to six additional major leaguers will become eligible for salary arbitration each year. The group of players with at least two but less than three years of major league service lost the right to arbitration in the 1985 agreement, but players regained it for the top 17 percent of 2-3-year players by service time in the 1990 deal. That will rise to 22 percent following the 2012 season.

For this offseason, the number of Type A free agents, requiring the highest draft-pick compensation from the team signing a player, will be cut from 21 as part of a one-year deal bridging the way to a new system. There will be no change for the most-prized free agents, such as Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder.

Starting next year, teams will have to make a "qualifying offer" of a one-year guaranteed contract to their players eligible to become free agents in order to receive compensation if the player signs with another club. That amount will be at least $12.4 million and could rise by next year, depending on a formula. The new "qualifying offer" does away with the statistical formula for ranking free agents that has existed since the 1981 strike settlement.

In addition, there are modifications to baseball's revenue-sharing formula and to its benefit plan. Players and owners did not agree to a tax on low-payroll teams, although they did have some discussion during negotiations.

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.

Commissioner Bud Selig already has 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 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.

Information from ESPN The Magazine's Buster Olney, ESPN.com's Jayson Stark and The Associated Press was used in this report.

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