Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association reached a deal Thursday addressing many of the outstanding questions facing the game in the wake of the coronavirus shutdown, including how the two sides will address a shortened (or perhaps altogether canceled) 2020 season. The specifics of this agreement still aren’t fully known, due in part to the ongoing fluidity of how baseball and the players’ union will have to adjust to future events, though we’ve already learned quite a few ways in which the sport’s structure will be altered for this wholly unique season. Some of the latest details…
- ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel published a highly-recommended breakdown of the agreement, including an explanation of how MLB’s $170MM advance payment will be distributed to players if the season is cancelled entirely.
- Another key insight from Passan and McDaniel: “The arbitration system will be adjusted to consider lessened counting statistics because of the shorter season, and salaries secured during the 2021 offseason through arbitration won’t be used in the precedent-based system going forward.” No further detail is provided regarding the adjustment to the arbitration system, which in a sense is already set up to consider lessened counting statistics. For example, if Kris Bryant hits 20 home runs in the course of an 81-game 2020 season, will that be viewed as the equivalent of a 40 home run campaign? Passan and McDaniel’s other arbitration-related revelation – that the upcoming batch of arbitration salaries will be excluded as future precedents – implies that players may not have the luxury of getting a 40 home run type raise for a 20 home run half-season.
- The ESPN duo also notes that 2020 luxury tax payrolls will be assessed “base[d] it on what full-season salaries were supposed to be, not prorated salary payment.” This is notable in that a team like the Yankees, who are way above the luxury tax threshold, will still be taxed even though they will actually pay out much less than $208MM in salaries. The actual tax paid will be prorated, according to Passan and McDaniel. The writers also explain, “And if there is no season, there will be no taxes owed, implying every team would reset to the lowest competitive balance tax threshold.” Before the coronavirus struck, teams such as the Red Sox and Cubs basically devoted their offseasons to getting under the threshold and resetting their tax rate for the future.
- Speaking of veteran players on minor league contracts, several of those deals contained player opt-out dates set five days prior to the Opening Day that never occurred. MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan (Twitter link) has heard speculation that the league could simply push those deadlines to five days prior to the season’s new start. With no official policy yet in place, we’ve seen different approaches from various teams to this issue, ranging from some clubs agreeing to delay opt-out decision dates independently, to some teams officially selecting a non-roster player’s contract in order to confirm their place on the Major League roster.
- The MLB/MLBPA agreement also has a provision for players who aren’t on a 40-man roster but are on guaranteed contracts, the Athletic’s Zach Buchanan tweets. Such players as the Diamondbacks’ Yasmany Tomas “will receive more advance pay than a minor-leaguer,” though it isn’t clear if they would receive the full $5K daily salary through April and May. Tomas was set to make $17MM in 2020, which was the last season of his six-year, $68.5MM deal signed back in December 2014. Arizona outrighted Tomas off its 40-man roster in each of the last two seasons, and he has appeared in only four Major League games for the D’Backs in that time.
- For a high-level explainer of this week’s agreement between MLB and the MLBPA, check out Jeff Todd’s video here.