Much about the 2021 season remains unsettled but some clarity might be on the horizon. Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association will ramp up discussions about the season next week, reports Ken Davidoff of the New York Post. Talks won’t be starting completely from scratch; Davidoff notes the two sides have had “cursory” conversations about next season since the conclusion of the World Series, but nothing has begun in earnest. Part of the delay, it seems, was the MLBPA’s desire to settle upon the composition of its eight-player executive subcommittee before beginning detailed negotiations. That group (Zack Britton, Jason Castro, Gerrit Cole, Francisco Lindor, Andrew Miller, James Paxton, Max Scherzer and Marcus Semien) was finalized last week, per Davidoff.
There’ll be plenty of issues for the parties to sort through, both on and off the field. Most obviously, there’s the question of whether to retain rules changes (seven-inning doubleheaders, universal designated hitter, runner on second base in extra innings among them) instituted for the 2020 season. The number of postseason teams and playoff structure also remains up in the air.
The MLBPA has already rejected a league proposal to institute the universal DH for 2021 in exchange for another one-year postseason expansion. It stands to reason the sides could revisit that general framework, albeit with additional concessions to the union. Certainly, both sides would be best served by a quick decision on the status of the National League DH.
Even more difficult to resolve than the on-field measures are the economic issues that’ll arise if/when the 2021 season is impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic. It seems improbable teams can anticipate a full 162-game slate with capacity crowds from the beginning of the season. The two sides will have to decide, then, whether to attempt a full season and how to sort out player compensation if the season length is affected. Looming over all the uncertainty is the scheduled expiration of the current collective bargaining agreement in December 2021. The parties will have plenty to sort out, and that work will really get underway in the coming days.