Sides agree to start bargaining early

NEW YORK (AP) — Major League Baseball and its players agreed to an unprecedented early start to contract bargaining, a move sparked by union anger that raised the possibility of a return to work stoppages that marred the sport in the late 20th century.

MLB and the union announced modest rule changes, mostly starting in 2020 such as expanded rosters and a three-batter minimum for pitchers, and the commissioner’s office agreed to drop its push for pitch clocks until 2022 at the earliest.

Players have been furious at slow free-agent markets during the first two offseasons of the collective bargaining agreement set to expire Dec. 1, 2021. The agreement increased the level of the luxury tax and prompted more teams to jettison veterans in favor of rebuilding with youth. None of the previous 11 collective bargaining agreements dating to 1966 was overhauled in mid-agreement, except for limited areas defined by the sides when the deal was signed.

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