4:07pm: There is no formal directive to freeze rosters at this point, per Bob Nightengale of USA Today (via Twitter).
Some within the game are still hoping to squeeze in a 162-game regular season. Red Sox president Sam Kennedy (Twitter link via Jen McCaffrey of The Athletic) and White Sox VP Scott Reifer (Twitter link via Adam Hoge of NBC Sports Chicago) said as much. And Nightengale (via Twitter) and Jared Diamond of the Wall Street Journal (via Twitter) were among those to report the same from unnamed sources.
Of course, Diamond was also among those that have pointed to a recognition within the game that the initial delay will be for more than two weeks. And the Red Sox front office acknowledged in its conference call today that there’d need to be a second round of Spring Training before starting back up.
Those (and many other) factors will make it awfully difficult to make it to 162 while still wrapping up postseason play by even early November. Kennedy noted the possibility of holding games at spring sites or without fans, but even in that scenario it would seem to require quite some creativity to make a full season possible given the limits of how hard pitchers can be worked. Perhaps hosting postseason contests at sites impervious to the cold would allow some flexibility on the back end.
1:11pm: Yesterday, public health imperatives relating to the spread of the coronavirus forced Major League Baseball to pause Spring Training and institute a two-week delay to the regular season. The decision leaves many questions left to answer in the coming days, weeks, and months.
Teams are holding in place and awaiting further direction for the time being. MLB and MLB Players Association representatives are scheduled to meet this weekend to work out a plan, Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times reports (Twitter links).
In the meantime, White Sox GM Rick Hahn says that MLB has temporarily paused player transactions, MLB.com’s Scott Merkin reports (via Twitter). The freeze will be in place through the weekend, at least.
This is certainly not the right moment for trades and waiver claims to be executed, so an immediate moratorium was all but certain. Presumably, a more formalized plan for dealing with roster matters will ultimately go into place. It’s obvious that some kind of exceptional measures will be needed.
Typically, this is a time of year when we begin to see a high volume of transactions. Many of those rate as relatively minor in comparison to the high-profile signings and trades that we focus on, but they mean quite a bit to the individual players involved.
To some extent, it’s not difficult to imagine a roster freeze from a logistical perspective. Dates for certain decisions can simply be pushed back. There may be some tricky bits to sort out, but they’re of relatively minor import.
The tougher questions relate to the potential for a lengthy stoppage. While the initial postponement of Opening Day covered two weeks, every indication is that further delays will take place.
For the time being, players are being kept on site in spring facilities. Teams are taking varying approaches, with some holding limited workouts and others canceling player activities.
Managing this crisis will require the league and union to work together to ensure a fair outcome for all players. Minor-leaguers aren’t even compensated for time spent in Spring Training, so the loss of anticipated in-season earnings would be devastating. And that’s just as true for the many workers around the country who rely upon ballgames to pay their bills.