After a 99-day lockout, Major League Baseball teams and the MLB players union have come to an agreement on a new collective bargaining agreement that will pave the way for the 2022 season to begin.
Now that the labor dispute has been resolved, we can examine some of the ramifications of the new agreement on the upcoming season. Despite the extended negotiations that caused the cancellation of the first two weeks of spring training games, the deal ensures that there will be a full 162-game regular season.
For baseball fans, here are some of the most important issues that will affect them:
When will opening day be?
Opening day has been pushed back a week to April 7 to allow for a shortened spring training period of a little more than three weeks.
The first week of games on the original schedule, which was supposed to begin on March 31, will be rescheduled as doubleheaders or played on teams' mutual off days. Also, the doubleheaders will be a full nine innings, unlike the seven-inning doubleheaders MLB instituted during the COVID-shortened 2020 season.
The regular season will be extended by three days to allow all games to be made up.
When does spring training start?
Players can immediately begin making travel arrangements and reporting to camp as early as Friday – with a mandatory reporting date of March 13. However, some players who live outside the United States still need to go through the process of securing travel visas and could be delayed.
Teams have already opened up their spring camps for minor leaguers, although members of the major league coaching staffs have not all been present.
Exhibition games will now begin with two games on March 17 and the rest of the teams opening on March .
Even with the compressed time frame, teams should still have enough time to set their rosters for the start of regular-season play.
When can free agents start signing ?
The official ratification of the new CBA on Thursday night allows teams to resume all operations – including free agent signings, trades and arbitration agreements.
There are still upwards of 200 free agents still on the open market, and with only four weeks until opening day, expect a frenzy of signings as the purse strings are unleashed.
Who are the best free agents?
There is an unprecedented number of top-tier free agents still available to be signed by any MLB team. Among them:
1B Freddie Freeman
SS Carlos Correa
SS Trevor Story
OF Nick Castellanos
3B/OF Kris Bryant
RP Kenley Jansen
OF Kyle Schwarber
1B Anthony Rizzo
SP Carlos Rodon
OF Eddie Rosario
SP Clayton Kershaw
DH Nelson Cruz
Freeman may be the first domino to fall because of his importance to the World Series champion Atlanta Braves. Does he leave the only home he's known as a major leaguer for greener pastures? What could be better than returning to a defending championship team?
What are the new MLB rules for 2022?
While the new agreement gives MLB the ability to enact new rules with 45 days notice, that provision doesn't go into effect until the 2023 season. So no pitch clock, no ban on defensive shifts and no larger bases this year.
The biggest immediate change is the universal designated hitter, which will add a DH to National League lineups. As a result, pitchers – other than Shohei Ohtani – won't ever set foot in the batter's box, except in rare circumstances.
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What changes are being made to the playoffs?
Playoffs will be expanded from 10 to 12 teams, starting this fall. The American and National Leagues will each add an extra wild-card team to the postseason, giving the division winners with the two best overall records in their respective leagues a first-round bye.
Also, there won't be any Game 163 tiebreakers. All ties will be broken by a predetermined formula.
Instead of the one-game wild-card playoff that was instituted in 2012, the opening round of the playoffs will now be best-of-three series -- with the higher seed hosting all three games. The division winner with the worst record in each league will play the wild-card team with the worst record, while the remaining two wild-card teams will play each other.
The next postseason round, the divisional playoffs, will continue to be a best-of-five series with no reseeding (1 vs. 4/5 winner, 2 vs. 3/6 winner). The league championship series and the World Series will remain best-of-seven.
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: MLB 2022: When is opening day? Universal DH, new rules after lockout