12:55pm: The non-roster invitees who are covered by the union’s weekly allowance are those who are Article XX(B) free agents and finished the 2019 season on a Major League roster or injured list, MLBTR has learned. That effectively covers players with six-plus years of MLB service who closed out last season on a roster and settled for minor league deals this winter.
12:05pm: Derrick Goold of the St. Louis Post-Dispatch tweets that Manfred confirmed the obvious during the conference call, plainly stating: “We are not going to start on April 9.”
Unsurprisingly, Goold notes that owners are still hoping to enjoy the revenue of a full season, although it’s not at all clear how they believe that to be possible. That seems like more of a pipe dream, given the increasingly broad slate of governmental regulations and restrictions being put into place the curb the spread of the pandemic. Beyond that, the logistical and meteorological challenges that would arise with a season beginning as late as June or July range from formidable to insurmountable.
Digression aside, Goold adds that Manfred has not formally closed training camps but has sought to limit informal workouts. The commissioner wouldn’t speculate as to when the season could actually begin.
11:53am: Developments have been quick to materialize since Major League Baseball halted Spring Training camps due to the Coronavirus pandemic. More major news could be on the horizon, as USA Today’s Bob Nightengale tweets that commissioner Rob Manfred is conducting a conference call today wherein he plans to advise all clubs to shut down their spring facilities entirely. Nightengale adds that multiple GMs believe the shutdown could now extend into the month of July, although there’s no formal word on anything beyond the current (very conservative) April 9 date that was announced last Thursday.
Additionally, the MLBPA sent a memo to agents this morning covering a number of issues that have grown into points of concern in the wake of the shutdown (all Twitter links via The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal). Among the pressing issues for veteran players who are in camp on non-roster deals was one of what happens to their mid-spring opt-out dates. A player with a March 19 opt-out date, for instance, is left in an uncomfortable limbo.
Such clauses are commonplace among veterans; among the dozens of recognizable names with such provisions are: Francisco Liriano, Neil Walker, Wade LeBlanc, Logan Forsythe, Greg Holland, Trevor Rosenthal, Jake Petricka and Anthony Swarzak (among countless others). The dates of those clauses range from March 16 up through Opening Day. The Blue Jays already selected Joe Panik to the 40-man roster to avoid complications.
To that end, the league and union are discussing a transaction freeze that could be implemented in the “very near future” and would run through the reopening of training camps, per Rosenthal. Certainly, there’ll need to be some renegotiation of just where those players’ opt-outs will fall on the calendar of a so-called “second Spring Training” later in the year, but the worry over what to do for the time being would be mitigated. Those players would simply remain the property of the clubs with which they signed this winter, rather than having to decide whether to exercise an opt-out clause at a time when the team can’t be sure of a non-roster player’s chances of making the club (and a time when other clubs may be wary of signing anyone new).
The union is also offering to cover some spring living allowances for players, per Rosenthal, allotting up to $1100 per week to 40-man roster players — and “certain non-roster invitees,” though the nature of the exemption isn’t clear — who choose to return either to their homes or to their team’s home city. Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post (Twitter link), the memo stipulates: “This allowance will remain in effect until April 9th or such a time that the Clubs begin providing similar allowances.”
Sherman further adds (Twitter thread) that the union has informed agents that it is raising complaints with the league regarding teams that have not complied with MLB’s March 14 memo regarding the availability of spring facilities. That memo stipulated that players on a 40-man roster “must be permitted to remain at the Club’s Spring Training site, and are eligible to receive their usual Spring Training allowances.” Today’s union memo indicates that various player testimonies and public reports have made clear this is not happening universally.
Of course, further questions abound. The two sides are still discussing scheduling, player salaries, Major League service time, amateur signings and a host of other topics, per Rosenthal. Matters that pertain to the June draft, incentive-laden contracts and the July 31 trade deadline are surely all being discussed and will be ongoing as both parties seek to navigate their way through an unprecedented series of challenges in today’s game.