MLB Agrees To Universal DH and Removal Of Draft Pick Compensation

Commissioner Rob Manfred announced Thursday that the league agreed to a universal designated hitter and the elimination of draft pick compensation as part of ongoing Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations.

The changes, which still have to be agreed to by the Major League Baseball Players Association as part of a new CBA, would mark a departure from how baseball has operated for more than 40 years. The DH has been used in American League stadiums only since it was first adopted in 1973, with the exception of the shortened 2020 season. Draft pick compensation for losing qualifying free agents has existed in various forms since 1978 when the White Sox (Ron Blomberg), Athletics (Mike Jorgensen), Pirates (Terry Forster) and Yankees (Mike Torrez) became the first teams to receive first-round draft picks for losing players in free agency. Seven additional compensation picks were awarded that year after the second and third rounds.

“We’ve agreed to a universal designated hitter and the elimination of draft choice compensation,” Manfred said following the conclusion of the owner’s meetings in Orlando, Fla. “These changes will improve the free agent market by creating additional jobs that are often filled by veteran players and by reducing, actually eliminating, the drag from compensation.”

Players and teams had expressed support for continuing the universal DH in 2021, but owners proposed keeping expanded playoffs in exchange and the MLBPA turned down the proposal.

Pitchers hit .108 with a .147 on-base percentage and .137 slugging percentage in 2021 and struck out in 45% of their plate appearances. They have collectively hit under .150 every year since 1994.

Free agents with draft pick compensation attached have long seen their markets limited by clubs not wanting to sacrifice a draft pick to sign them. The last CBA instituted a new system in which teams’ highest first-round picks would be exempt from forfeiture if they signed a qualifying free agent. Previously, only the top 10 overall picks were exempt. Even with the modification, players have seen their markets depressed by some teams’ hesitance to forfeit even non-first-round selections.

“Even getting into valuing things like additional DH jobs, which are high-paying jobs rather than low-paying jobs, the elimination of draft choice compensation, which would tend to increase player salaries, I mean, you know, you’re talking about a lot of money,” Manfred said.

Manfred also announced the league will make a proposal to players on Saturday and that there has been no change to the scheduled start of spring training. Pitchers and catchers are scheduled to report next week, but players on 40-man rosters are not allowed to participate until a new CBA has been agreed upon.

Manfred said minor league players who are not on 40-man rosters will not be used in major league spring training games, which are scheduled to begin Feb. 26.

Minor league spring training games are scheduled to begin in mid-March.

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