MARCH 27, 8:30pm: Union chief Tony Clark says that competitive balance taxes would not be assessed in the event that the season is cancelled, as Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links). Generally, Clark indicated that the players are amenable to all manner of creative solutions to get in as much of the season as possible. It sounds as if both sides see merit in expanding rosters to facilitate that effort.
12:35pm: Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter) and Jeff Passan of ESPN.com (Twitter links) provides further details. This year’s draft class will only be eligible to receive up to $100K of bonus money up front, with the remainder paid in two equal installments in 2021 and 2022. Draft selections and international slots may not be traded in the typical, limited manner. Suspensions will apply as usual for the upcoming season but will not carry further into the future if the 2020 season is cancelled.
11:29am: MLB owners have unanimously ratified the agreement, tweets Joel Sherman of the New York Post.
6:05am: In addition to the dramatically shortened draft, the players acquiesced on signing bonuses for draftees, Rosenthal further reports within a much more expansive piece on the deal between the two sides (subscription required).
Slot values in the draft will be frozen at 2019 levels for the next two years as opposed to the roughly three percent year-over-year increase that has been standard. That decision will surely draw its share of criticism, though it’s clear that the players’ focus is on those currently within their union. Player representatives, in particular, figure to take umbrage with ownership’s push to reduce bonuses; Scott Boras calls it “unconscionable” that ownership would “use a pandemic situation in our country as a means to [reduce draftees’ bonuses].”
MARCH 26: With the coronavirus at least delaying the Major League Baseball season, MLB and the MLBPA reached an agreement on several key issues Thursday night, as Jeff Passan of ESPN first reported. Service time, players’ salaries, roster moves, the draft and the upcoming international signing period are all addressed in the deal, which owners will vote on Friday. If it’s ratified, a roster freeze will go into effect for an indeterminate period of time, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic.
A typical season would have featured 186 days overall, giving players up to 172 days of service time. We don’t know how many there will be this season, though, and that could have had lasting effects on players and teams had the two sides not hammered something out. Now, thanks to this agreement, all players who are active or on the injured list for the entirety of a shortened 2020 season will receive a full year of service time, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic. Players’ service time will be pro-rated in the event of a truncated campaign, Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds. So, if there’s a 100-day season and a player’s active for 50 of those days, he’ll get half a year of service. If no season happens at all, service time accrued will be based on the amount of days the player earned in 2019, per Rosenthal.
The service time portion of this pact is especially welcome news for many who are due to become free agents next winter. The likes of Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto and George Springer will all remain in position to reach free agency then even if a season does not take place. Meanwhile, pre-arbitration players (including names like Matt Chapman and Gleyber Torres) will stay on track to go through the arb process for the first time.
For now, those major leaguers and the rest around MLB will receive a $170MM advance (3 to 4 percent of their full salaries) spread over two months, Rosenthal reports. The union will distribute the money to four classes of players, but those with guaranteed contracts stand to rake in the largest total. The players’ salaries will be pro-rated based on how long the season lasts, and they won’t be able to sue for their full amounts, Rosenthal adds.
Looking ahead to the summer, this year’s amateur draft could go down to five rounds, per Passan, but MLB will have the ability to increase that total, Rosenthal relays, adding that the event won’t occur later than July. Players’ signing bonuses will be deferred, not given out up-front, and they’ll receive 10 percent now and 45 percent over the next two years. Meanwhile, undrafted free agents will be able to sign for up to $20K, per Jon Heyman of MLB Network.
In another decision that will have some effect on young talent from around the game, the upcoming international signing period could be delayed until as late as January 2021, Passan writes. It’s currently scheduled to run from July 2 of this year through June 15, 2021.
These are certainly noteworthy steps for baseball during a time of such uncertainty, though there are still more details to work out. For example, as Rosenthal notes, agreements on spring training and roster size have not come together to this point. Under normal circumstances, we’d have seen 26-man rosters this year, but it’s possible that number will increase for 2020 if a season does occur. According to Passan, there’s a possibility that if the regular season does happen, it will last from June through October and include more doubleheaders. The playoffs would bleed into November and perhaps include games at neutral sites.