4:35pm: MLB’s latest proposal includes a delayed draft and would provide players with the same service time they accrued in 2020, tweets Rosenthal. It seems the league aims to contend that such a proposal only shorts players who’d make their MLB debut in 2020, although notable mid- and late-season call-up would also consequently fall shy of a full year of service. Second-half call-ups like Bo Bichette, Gavin Lux, Jesus Luzardo and many others would receive some big league service time under that scenario but still fall shy of the requisite 172 days of service that constitutes a full year. It remains to be seen if that’s a trade the union is willing to make.
That proposed scenario would be a nightmare scenario for a club like the Dodgers, who traded young talent and took on considerable financial obligations in order to acquire the final season of club control over Mookie Betts. It’s unclear just how the league and union would allay any concerns that would surely arise from the Dodgers and other organizations who traded for one-year rentals.
1:01pm: We checked in last night on the latest talks between MLB and the MLBPA regarding the many complicated issues presented by the coronavirus-driven stoppage of play. While it seems players will be assured of recording full service time if the season is played, there’s plenty more to sort out.
ESPN.com’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel provide an update on the latest plans, and the New York Post’s Joel Sherman has penned a column with additional updates of his own. Unfortunately, the overriding concern — the ability to safely stage games — remains wholly subject to the unknown whims of the future.
The goal is to shoehorn in as many games as possible once that becomes possible. At the moment, it seems the most optimistic outcome would be a June resumption of play, with July perhaps more likely. That’ll dictate how many contests can be staged.
To maximize the number of games, the plan appears to call for numerous double-headers and perhaps even an accelerated second Spring Training. Active roster expansion would be offered to help allay concerns with overworked pitching. The postseason would be pushed into the deep fall, or perhaps even the winter, at neutral sites. As Sherman points out, the league has some concern about television broadcast rights when major networks will be carrying key games from other sports (e.g. Sunday NFL coverage).
It’s not just teams and the league that are pushing to do as much as possible. In large part, all parties are in this together. MLB’s most powerful agent, Scott Boras, still thinks a complete season is plausible, as Mike DiGiovanna of the Los Angeles Times reports. Even a mid-summer start would permit a 144 or even 162-game regular season and full postseason slate, says Boras — if the tail end was played at neutral sites right through late December.
The talks also involve quite a few other matters, some of which are more concrete. MLB has committed to advancing $150MM in salary to be distributed to 40-man roster members. There’s also consideration of issuing payment to minor-leaguers at something close to their regular salary for at least some stretch of time.
So long as there’s a season to be played, it stands to reason that most matters will be sorted out so long as there’s sufficient good will between the sides. But even that will require some adjustment; as Passan and McDaniel note, the arbitration system is one of many areas that will have to be modified temporarily.
The draft, too, is a hot-button issue. It seems the two sides have discussed a wide range of scenarios. Sherman writes that the event could pushed back or shortened, with signing bonuses paid out over a longer term rather than in an up-front lump sum. SportsGrid’s Craig Mish suggests (via Twitter) that shortening the event — perhaps to as few as 10 rounds — could be likeliest.
But the real trouble lurks beyond: what if there is no 2020 season? That would unveil a host of thorny matters. MLB and MLBPA negotiators have evidently had less success agreeing on how to respond to such a drastic development. They’ve tabled those talks for the time being while hoping, along with the rest of us, that dealing with that outcome doesn’t prove necessary.