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What we know about the new CBA, and what it means for the Red Sox

There’s a lot to dive into.

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Red Sox Media Availability Photo by Jim Davis/The Boston Globe via Getty Images

Baseball is finally back, with the players and league agreeing to a new collective bargaining agreement on Thursday and transactions opening up, well, immediately. But before we start going over players changing teams and all of that fun stuff, it’s worth digging in to the agreement itself and seeing how, if at all, it will affect the Red Sox. I should note that this is not a comprehensive list as more and more is coming out about the CBA, but these seem to be the main takeaways of what we know so far.

  • The big sticking point throughout these talks always seemed to the be the competitive balance tax, probably better known to most as the luxury tax. The final agreement put the CBT for this season at $230 million, and it will push up to $244 million by the end of this five-year agreement. For the Red Sox, Cot’s Contracts currently has them at around $207 million below the first tax line, giving them somewhere around $20-$25 million to spend to stay behind the first line. Of course, they don’t have to spend below that figure, and they got under it in previous years with the idea that they can go back over in the future. Still, it’s a key number to keep in mind with transactions opening back up.
  • Another one of the key aspects to watch in this process has been an expanded postseason field. It will be a 12-team field, with the top two division winners in each league getting a bye and the first-round series being a best-of-three. There had been talk of the higher seed getting a “ghost win,” but that didn’t end up making it in. It’s going to be a competitive American League this year, so having an extra team helps a team like the Red Sox, even if I’m against the idea generally.
  • What would appear to be a side effect of the expanded postseason field is something I do like, which is a new schedule structure. Trying to get more balance, teams will no longer play so frequently against divisional opponents, and will now play at least one series against every team, including those in the opposite league. As a fan, although it makes sense, I will miss the extra Red Sox-Yankees games. That said, it is good for the Red Sox right now to play fewer games against their very good division rivals. And if you’re going to allow more teams into the postseason, it only makes sense to have them play more similar schedules.
  • The minimum salary will be raised to $700,000 to start the deal, moving up to $780,000 by the end of it. This shouldn’t really have too much of an impact on the Red Sox, as even when they are at their most budget-conscious that is more about the high-end contracts rather than the low-end. This is more likely to affect teams that carry consistently low payrolls.
  • A pool of $50 million will be collected to be dispersed among the top pre-arbitration players in the league in that given year. It had been reported earlier in the process that the roughly $1.67 million that each team will contribute will count against the CBT, though I haven’t seen confirmation on whether or not that made it into the final deal. In the immediate future, the Red Sox probably don’t have a ton of players for whom this will be a concern, particularly if it’s based on WAR which could hurt players like Tanner Houck and Garrett Whitlock depending on their roles. Bobby Dalbec could theoretically make his way into that group as well. That said, with some top prospects getting relatively close to the majors, most notably Triston Casas and Jarren Duran, with Nick Yorke not too far behind, some up-and-coming Sox players could see increased salaries in their early years.
  • The draft lottery is set for the bottom six teams. Pretty self-explanatory, I think. Let’s hope the Red Sox are not part of this mix very often, if at all. That said, it is a nice bonus for a Red Sox team that is prone to some down years, but not really bottoming out, giving them a much better chance at the top overall pick if it comes to that.
  • Players can now only be optioned five times in a season. This seems notable for the Red Sox, especially right now with their questionable bullpen. I think there are probably going to be some unintended consequences here, with guys who may otherwise stick on the roster getting waived because their primary role would be as an up-and-down arm. Phillips Valdez jumps out immediately as a player who could be affected, whether positively or negatively, by this move.
  • Towards the end of these negotiations, the international draft became a huge sticking point. Always a non-starter for the players, it has been tabled in a way. The league and players will have until late July to agree to an international draft format, which would start in 2024. If an agreement is made, the qualifying offer will be eliminated. If no agreement is reached, the both the international signing system and the qualifying offer system will stay in place. This notable for the Red Sox, who should be in the market for these kinds of big free agents almost every season.
Championship Series - Boston Red Sox v Houston Astros - Game Six Photo by Elsa/Getty Images
  • The universal DH is in place, which has been known for a while. We talked last month about effects on the Red Sox.
  • The Rule 5 Draft has been cancelled for this year. This kind of stinks and feels unnecessary to me. This is an opportunity for young players to get a first chance they may otherwise have to wait a year or two for. Players are missing out this year, and that’s a real shame. As for the Red Sox, it certainly helps no longer being at risk for losing someone like Gilberto Jimenez or Durbin Feltman, among other potential Rule 5 losses.
  • Game 163s are no more. This truly bums me out. I get it with the expanded playoffs and needing to have more time, I suppose, but the Game 163 was one of my favorite uniquely baseball things. The exact tiebreakers are not yet known, so it’s hard to say if one type of team could potentially benefit more than another. But in a division like the AL East that looks so competitive both short-term and long-term, this could come into play quite a bit for Boston.