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OC Register: Baseball is back – and here are 10 big changes

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After 99 days of lockout, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached a tentative agreement on a new five-year labor deal Thursday.

In addition to salvaging the 162-game season, the agreement means free agency and trades can begin Thursday night and players can report for spring training as soon as Friday.

Spring training games can start March 17 and the regular season is expected to begin April 7. The season will be extended three days with doubleheaders also being used to help make up for the late start.

After the owners locked out the players on Dec. 2 and the sides eventually agreed to a new five-year deal, here are some of the big changes coming to baseball:

• The designated hitter is back in the National League, two years after it was adopted during the COVID-impacted 2020 season.

• No more runners starting on second base at the start of extra innings.

• The playoffs will add two more teams and expand to 12 teams out of 30, beginning this season.

• A player can be optioned to the minor leagues no more than five times in one season.

• Expect advertising on uniforms, with patches on jerseys and decals on batting helmets.

• The competitive-balance tax – or luxury-tax – thresholds will grow from $230 million to $244 million over course of the deal.

• The minimum salary for players with less than three years’ major-league service goes from $570,500 to $700,000 and will increase by $20,000 each year of the deal to $780,000 in the final year of the CBA.

• In order to discourage teams from tanking, there will now be a draft lottery for the top six picks in the amateur draft, which will now be 20 rounds.

• The creation of a pre-arbitration bonus pool of $50 million for younger players who have yet to reach salary arbitration.

• An arbitration exchange date for teams and players has been set for March 22, with hearings taking place during the season.

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