We don’t yet know if there will be a 2020 MLB season, when it might start, or how many games we will get. The league and the players union did come to an agreement that covers some of the lingering details of postponement.
Most interestingly to the fans, each team will start the 2020 season, whenever it starts, with a 29-man roster, three more than they planned to carry. This seems like it would primarily benefit pitchers, as they have a shorter time to ramp up than normal. No word on if the Twins would be able to carry sixteen pitchers, or exactly what the limit would be set at. We do know one pitcher who won’t be with the Twins.
Blaine Hardy, the veteran lefthanded reliever that came to Minnesota from the Tigers this winter on a NRI, is the latest in the long list of pitchers to undergo Tommy John Surgery this month, as they prepare for the prospect of a shortened season anyway. In another procedural move similar to the one mentioned yesterday morning, Royce Lewis, Trevor Larnach and Alex Kirilloff were all officially sent down to the minors. The three top Twins prospects were all having impressive spring trainings before the virus shut us down.
Some players are going to be shut down even longer though, as there are quite a few serving out suspensions to start the season. One such player is Michael Pineda, who was popped for a masking agent last year. No word on how guys in his boat will be handled, but a report suggests how the domestic violence suspensions will go. Domingo German, for example, will have to serve his remaining 63 game suspension during the 2020 season, if there are 63 games, but will not have it rolled over into 2021 if there are so few games he would still be suspended.
So those guys probably won’t accrue major league service time this year with a shortened season. One or all of them could have easily made a second-half debut had things gone normally. For the guys who are acquiring service time, the union made some concessions elsewhere to get the win on that front. If there is any kind of shortened season, the players will pick up a full season of service time. This, of course, will be pro-rated by the number of days they actually ARE on the MLB roster or IL, but is a significant gain over having their service time pro-rated against a “normal” year. The owners won something here too, however.
The owners won themselves a bit of cost certainty. Rather than having to pay a full season of player salaries (the horror) or risk the salaries being cancelled (apparently within the commissioner’s powers,) the owners and player agreed to a package of $170 million in compensation for players, based on the type of contract the player has. There will be four tiers of contracts. If the season is cancelled, the players keep this money. If its shortened, their paychecks will be prorated to the actual days on the roster. At least they are getting paid—there is one group of guys who won’t be.
The MLBPA has had one historic blind spot—they won’t fight for their future members. Players in the minors have consistently gotten the short shrift, as they are not union members. This has now extended to draftees, as the union gave away the future of a bunch of high school and college athletes in this deal. The league can now unilaterally shorten the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds (they have the right to go longer.) The owners can also push the international signing period as late as January. The biggest issue is the draft bonuses. The 150-or-so players picked will receive $100,000 up front, and the rest of their bonus equally split over 2021 and 2022. The guys who are undrafted, however, are limited to only a $20,000 bonus. If this sounds like a back-door way to contract the minor leagues, you’re probably not alone.
The idea of resuming play is obviously something everyone is chomping at the bit for. Don’t get too excited. It sounds like the idea right now is to wait until all travel bans are lifted, there are no bans on mass gatherings, and health experts say its safe for players and fans. The one caveat to this is that both sides agreed to investigate the ideas of neutral site play, and play without fans in attendance. Both those ideas could lead to the season starting earlier or being prolonged after it otherwise would be.
There are still a lot of details left to shake out, but at least some of the lingering questions related to the postponement of the 2020 season have been agreed to by the players and owners. Now lets just get the all-clear to have them back on the field.