As you are almost assuredly aware of – the 2020 Major League Baseball season is currently on hold. With the whole coronavirus/COVID-19 pandemic happening, the entire world is basically shutting itself down as much as possible in order to try and limit exposure to a dangerous virus. Since announcing that spring training has been cancelled two weeks ago, we’ve seen the start of the regular season pushed back from “two weeks” to a date unknown as it began to sink in with the decision makers that this was going to be a longer than two weeks kind of situation. In that time, we’ve also seen MLB officials negotiating with the Major League Baseball Players Association working towards figuring out many different aspects of how things could work in scenarios where the season is shortened, or perhaps doesn’t happen at all.
Last night the two sides came to an agreement. The only thing needed to finalize it is the owners approval (MLB negotiated on their behalf) – which is expected to take place during a noon ET conference call according to multiple reports. Before diving into all of the aspects of what the agreement is, I’m going to provide some links to sources that were reporting on the details as they emerged.
Jeff Passan broke the news on twitter, and later wrote about it at ESPN.com. Joel Sherman of The New York Post had a few parts of the agreement reported first in his twitter feed. Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic also had a few parts of the deal reported first on his twitter feed.
Now, let’s jump into what it was that was agreed upon. There are two very big things here for the Major League Baseball players: Money and service time. Let’s start with the money. The owners are fronting $170,000,000 in player salary over the next two months. This is how it will break down, according to Jeff Passan:
The union agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season never takes place, and MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, sources said. The MLBPA will divvy up the lump sum among four classes of players, with the majority of it going to those with guaranteed major league contracts. If games are played, the advance will count against final salaries, which will be prorated.
This scenario means that the players get at least some financial certainty. If the season never comes to fruition, they get something rather than nothing. The other thing that the players were worried about was service time. Not only how much they would get credit for if a season is player – but what they would get if the season wasn’t played. Ken Rosenthal originally reported first on this one:
No agreement yet on spring training or roster size. Service time worked out as previously reported: Full year of service for those who are active or on injured list for entirety of shortened season, regardless of length. Same service as that earned in ‘19 if season is canceled.
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) March 27, 2020
How this comes into play with the Reds is interesting. If a season isn’t played, impending free agents such as Trevor Bauer and Anthony DeSclafani would still become free agents after the year. Where things get a bit interesting, too, is that players who haven’t yet reached arbitration, but are in their final pre-arbitration year, will still reach arbitration next year despite no games in 2020. By my count that would include Jesse Winker, Tyler Mahle, Amir Garrett, Robert Stephenson, and Luis Castillo. There’s a chance I’m missing someone, too.
Now, what did the players have to give up in order to come to this agreement? The biggest one seems to be that they bargained away the rights of amateur players once again. The 2020 draft could be limited to five rounds. It’s usually 40 rounds. And while teams can sign undrafted players in free agency this year, their signing bonus limits can only be up to $20,000. To put that in perspective, the first pick of the 2019 draft in the 6th round had a bonus pool allotment of $301,600. That same player this year would have to choose between signing for $20,000, or going to (or back to) school. There’s a lot more involved than that, but I’m going to save that rant for RedsMinorLeagues.com where it’s going to be more detailed about the ramifications of this plan.
Without any set date for when the season can start up, some things are still up-in-the-air, such as roster sizes, how many double headers can be played/will be allowed to be played if a season starts up, and a few other issues that can’t really be worked on until a much more firm timeline of events can be laid out.