We still don’t know when Major League Baseball’s Opening Day will be, but the league and player’s association (MLBPA) approved a plan that lays the groundwork for a return.
It took nearly two weeks of negotiations, but the agreement between MLB and the MLBPA obviously addresses what it will take for play to resume, but also service time for the players — even if the 2020 season is lost.
Despite there being no baseball until at least June — at least, that’s how things seem right now amidst the coronavirus pandemic — players still pushed for service time to be counted on their ledgers.
That means that pending free agents following the 2020 season — most notably Mookie Betts of the Los Angeles Dodgers, JT Realmuto of the Philadelphia Phillies, and Marcus Stroman of the New York Mets — could still hit the market even if Major League Baseball doesn’t play a single game in 2020.
Betts is obviously the headlining case seeing as the Dodgers acquired him this offseason from the Boston Red Sox. If there’s no season, Betts might not play a single game for the Dodgers if he decides to sign elsewhere in free agency.
For the time being, teams will be prohibited from signing, trading, or releasing players during the postponement.
It was also agreed that the player’s union will not sue MLB for full salaries if there is no baseball this year. The league will advance $170 million to its players over the next two months, however, per ESPN.
For baseball to return this year, a number of conditions must be met that will ensure the safety of players and fans, along with financial security for the league.
Medical experts would have to give the all-clear, ensuring that there would be no risk to anyone playing, working, or attending MLB games.
Bans on mass gatherings and travel restrictions must be lifted — allowing games to be played in front of fans while offering profitable avenues for teams in the form of gate receipts and concessions. There is a chance, however, that teams in heavily affected areas would have to play their games on neutral sites.
Considering New York and Seattle has become the epicenter of the COVID-19 pandemic in the United States, that could mean the Mets, Yankees, and Mariners could face the possibility of playing their home games elsewhere if baseball is ready to return sooner rather than later.
While playing in front of packed stadiums is the initial hope, part of the agreement lists that the commissioner and union would still be able to revisit the idea of playing in empty stadiums.