The country may still be on lockdown (#quarantinis #quarantinaturner #quaranteenhungerforce) but MLB and the MLB Player’s Association (MLBPA) have reportedly hammered out a deal for how things will progress if and when the 2020 season gets rolling. Here are the highlights of the deal, condensed for your reading pleasure from every beat writer’s thirty-odd tweets about it:
- The most important issue for players was reportedly service time, which makes sense, as for players, service time is the thing that determines when you go from getting paid to getting real paid and also figures into when MLB puts you on that sweet golden lifetime healthcare plan. Players wanted a guaranteed year of service time even if not a single game was played in 2020, and MLB agreed to that. If games are played, service time will be prorated; even if the season is just 100 games, players active for 50 games will receive half a service year.
As a note, this means players on one-year deals or in their last year before free agency will still become free agents in 2021, a provision also known as The Mookie Betts Sweepstakes Is Still On, Baby. Ah those wily Red Sox, playing chess on a jailbroken iPhone while the rest of baseball was playing checkers. Other fallouts, slightly more Mariners-adjacent: James Paxton is still a free agent in 2021 (BRING. HIM. HOME. at a reasonable cost!) and Matt Chapman is finally going to start costing the A’s money in arbitration.
- MLB will pay players out of a $170M fund for the first two months of the season whether or not games are played. This money is non-refundable even if the remainder of the season is canceled, but players cannot sue for lost wages if it is. Per Ken Rosenthal, the money will be distributed between four tiers of players, with those with guaranteed contracts and then three different levels of players with majors-minors split contracts.
- MLB has the right to delay the IFA signing period—the famous July 2nd, or J2, celebrated as a holiday in many parts of the DR—all the way to January 2021.
- The MLB draft will happen, no later than July 20 (with a signing deadline in August), under heavily abbreviated terms. The draft will only be five (5!) rounds—although MLB has the right to increase the round numbers, potentially up to 10—and bonuses for all undrafted players are capped at $20K. A five-round draft undeniably stings the Astros, who will now have just three picks and about two million to commit to those three players, but it unfortunately also catches in its wake the hundreds upon hundreds of amateur players who will have to put their professional baseball careers on hold for some time, and some who will hang up their cleats entirely. Those lucky enough to be signed for now-precious spots in an organization will do so for a fraction of what those who signed before them got.
- And wait, that’s not all the draft tomfoolery allowed for:
MLB also can shorten the 2021 draft to 20 rounds, and push back the 2021-22 international signing period to January 2022 through December 2022, per sources.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
We’ll have much more about draft implications as these numbers get locked down come tomorrow, but for a start, you can read this piece I wrote earlier today on how a shortened draft could impact players for the next several years.
The deal is expected to be formalized on Friday, at which point a transaction freeze will go into effect, which is why you see a flurry of last-minute roster moves. We’ll update this story with new information as it rolls in.