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Harbinger of harmony to come?

MLB, MLBPA agree to 2019-20 changes, perhaps foreshadowing labor peace

MLB: Negro Leagues Baseball Museum-Press Conference
In perfect harmony: Tony Clark is under enormous pressure not only to keep baseball players on the field, but treated fairly by ownership.
Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

A number of minor tweaks to baseball, centered mostly around roster construction, were reported late on Wednesday by Jeff Passan at ESPN and Ken Rosenthal of the Athletic.

One tweak, hardly a surprise, was making July 31 a “hard” trading deadline, which spells the end of August waiver deals. The new trading deadline begins this season.

The anticipated effect of the singular trade deadline is twofold. From the league’s side, having July 31 as a hard deadline figures to increase trade activity, in both volume and intensity, certainly between the All-Star Game and the end of July. From the player’s end, having a singular trade deadline would theoretically rouse clubs from their offseason malaise, knowing their in-season options to improve have been reduced.

A related change, slated for 2020, pertains to roster size. Regular rosters, now capped at 25 players, will increase to 26 (with a maximum of 13 pitchers). The flip side of adding a major league salary to teams all season long will be the reduction in September rosters, from 40 to 28 (maximum 14 pitchers). The days of getting a young player a taste of the majors for a cup of coffee at season’s end are over.

The All-Star Game gets a couple of interesting tweaks. The “Election Day” idea has already been leaked — as of 2019, fans will participate in their customary voting online, but then the top three players at each position will advance to a one-day “Election Day” to determine All-Star rosters.

Also, the Home Run Derby is said to be getting a new incentive: $1 million in prize money to the winner.

Buried underneath the (relatively minor) specifics of these new agreements is the promise between MLB and the MLBPA to immediately begin negotiating a new or amended labor deal, which should attack and address service time manipulation, the disappearing “middle class” of free agency, tanking, luxury taxes and the dormant free agent offseasons of 2017 and 2018.

It’s just a start, and could be all talk, but it’s nonetheless promising that both sides seem determined to be proactive about avoiding a labor disruption.

On a day where the entire elite core of young White Sox was sent to minor league camp and blue-chip starter Dane Dunning seemed destined for Tommy John surgery, it’s at least nice to know that the chances of the team’s competitive window getting locked shut by a strike have diminished.