9:26pm: The players are indeed expected to respond favorably to the league’s requests regarding reporting timeline and health and safety protocols, Jeff Passan of ESPN reports on Twitter. So long as the final points can be tidied up, it seems the resumption of play will be underway within a week.
7:29pm: The 2020 season is now slated to proceed under the terms of the late March agreement previously reached between MLB and the players’ association. The league has issued an announcement stating that the owners unanimously agreed to launch the campaign after further negotiations with the players failed to result in a new deal.
The campaign will ultimately be established at sixty games in length, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, though the league announcement doesn’t so specify. Rather, the announcement asks that the players inform the league as to the readiness to begin Spring Training (part deux) before assessing schedule length. It seems the season will go for sixty games so long as the players agree to report for preparation by the first of July. Assuming the players do indeed report by that point, Opening Day would be set for the weekend of July 24-26.
The other key element left open in the league’s announcement is agreement upon a health and safety protocol. Recent reporting indicates that the sides were working through a few final issues, with a general expectation that there’d be a deal. Indeed, the union’s own statement indicated as much earlier tonight.
While there’s now a clear path to a 2020 campaign, it’ll leave both sides without some of the key benefits they had sought. The league wished for an expanded postseason, while the players sought more regular season contests. Each side clearly stood to benefit somewhat from those concessions — the players would’ve had a cut of the playoff revenue; the owners would’ve had a longer season to boost long-term branding and earning opportunities — but they still couldn’t bridge the final gap for a fully negotiated new agreement.
This move comes right on the heels of the players’ decision to reject the owners’ final offer for a settlement. The players may well have done better if indeed the campaign comes in at sixty games, as the league’s final proposal provides. But the acrimony on both sides has shown no signs of abating. And the lengthy and public standoff over money — all in the midst of a pandemic and social unrest — has certainly not made the best impression on fans.
The league may have avoided a heftier labor cost in 2020; the players may finally have found some unity. But the game isn’t exactly glimmering at the moment. And the stage is clearly set for a monumental labor standoff with a wildly uncertain free agency and collective bargaining negotiations on the horizon.
Resolving things by reverting back to the late March agreement means that there are some open questions left to be debated. The sides have debated the meaning of the deal — in particular, how it’s to be interpreted in the case of a fan-free season — ever since it was signed. The union has reportedly threatened a grievance even if a season is installed by the commissioner, though the prospects for that course of action are uncertain at the moment.