ST. LOUIS -- Because of ongoing collective bargaining for a new Basic Agreement, the beginning of the annual free-agency period has been pushed back 24 hours, Commissioner Bud Selig said prior to Game 7 of the World Series at Busch Stadium on Friday night.Under new rules unveiled last year, eligible players no longer have to file, but automatically become free agents at midnight ET after the final game of the World Series. That date has now been pushed back to Sunday at 12:01 a.m. ET and has been "a subject of a lot of conversation," Selig said during a 22-minute news conference, during which he lauded the increased popularity of baseball. At that point, a five-day period of exclusivity commences, during which a free agent's previous team can only make an offer to the player and his representative. Other teams can make contact, but are not allowed to tender formal offers. Under the altered guidelines, that five-day period will end at 12:01 a.m. ET on Thursday. Collective bargaining has been ongoing since January and has heated up during the World Series as the free-agent period drew closer. Major League Baseball and the Players Association are still hoping to have a draft of the new agreement in place by next Friday. The one large outstanding issue seems to be paying slots for picks in the annual First-Year Player Draft. The current five-year agreement that was signed in 2006 expires on Dec. 11. About the talks, which are in their final stages, Selig again was not definitive. "They're meeting again today," Selig said. "They must be having a long meeting, because Rob Manfred [MLB's executive vice president of labor and human resources] is two hours overdue. [The talks] have been quiet, they've been thoughtful, and they've been constructive on both sides. We've come a long way." After the strike that shortened the 1994 season and caused the cancellation of that World Series, MLB has enjoyed a period without labor rancor. An expected new five-year agreement that would last through the 2016 season will give MLB 22 consecutive years of labor peace. "Nobody could have conceived, including me, that 16 years ago we could have this many years of labor peace," Selig said. "In retrospect, I've come to understand how badly that hurt us. I give everyone a lot of credit. But there's still a lot of work to be done yet."
Barry M. Bloom is national reporter for MLB.com and writes an MLBlog, Boomskie on Baseball. Follow @boomskie on Twitter. This story was not subject to the approval of Major League Baseball or its clubs.