It doesn’t look like actual baseball games with actual baseball being played with actual fans in the stands is happening anytime soon. Such is life during a pandemic that threatens the well-being, on multiple fronts, of the global populus. It is completely understandable and it also sucks.
However, there has been the problem of what to do when/if baseball starts back up. It isn’t as simple as just flicking the light switches on all the parks and then ‘play ball’ especially with the suspension of spring training and the loss of regular games. There are decisions about how many games, how many doubleheaders, service time...this was a big one, and the draft among a ton of other considerations.
Given that the labor environment before this viral outbreak was less than good, one could be excused from being worried about the owners and players coming to an agreement on these issues. However, we had some positive reporting recently about the talks and now tonight it looks like we have a deal.
Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have a deal, sources tell ESPN. The players have voted on it already. MLB owners are expected to ratify it tomorrow. An excellent sign that draws a path forward as baseball tries to figure out when it will return.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
We are still getting all of the details of the agreement and one should definitely look to Passan’s reporting for more details. However, here is the Cliff Notes version as it is understood on Thursday evening.
- MLB has the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and delay the 2020 IFA signing period. They also can shorten the 2021 draft and delay that signing period as well.
- If there is no 2020 season, all players will still get a full year of service time.
- Arbitration has been tweaked to not penalize players because the lack of counting stats in a potentially season shortened.
- Players will be advanced $170 million for the months of April and May by MLB ownership. If there is no season, they still get to keep that money.
The early returns are that the deal may not be absolutely perfect, but it is a good deal and it was somewhat miraculous that the two sides, with all of the bad blood, were able to come to such an agreement in these troubled times.