The agreement between Major League Baseball owners and players this week ensures that players will get service time in 2020, even if there is not a season. While both sides seem very committed to playing this year and playing the most games possible, they did account for this scenario in their latest talks.
Players on the roster all year in 2020, no matter how many games are scheduled, will also get a full year of service time. That makes sense as they would have played a full year, even if it’s a full year of only 120 games.
But the MLB Players Association clearly took care of its clients (the players) in the event no games are played. It sets up a situation where, for instance, Mookie Betts could become a free agent without ever playing for his new team, the Los Angeles Dodgers. Looking to win the World Series for the first time since 1988, the Dodgers acquired Betts from Boston on Feb. 10. They knew they might have him for just one year. But no one could have predicted that the game would shut down in March. If there is no season, Betts becomes a free agent and could leave the Dodgers without ever playing a game there.
These scenarios are unlikely. MLB is certainly going to try to play a season. We know that. But we don’t know for sure how the situation with the coronavirus will be in the United States in a month, or two months or three.
The Orioles, by the way, don’t have any player with five or more years of service time but less than six. A player who is a pending free agent at the end of 2020. That means they would not have any player become a free agent under a no-season scenario.
But at the end of the 2020 season, pending the service time these players do get this year, some or all of this may be true: Chris Davis will have two years left on his contract and Alex Cobb one year. Four Orioles will head to their second years of arbitration, and that group is Trey Mancini, Hanser Alberto, Miguel Castro and Richard Bleier. Players that could be arbitration eligible for the first time include Pedro Severino, Pat Valaika, Renato Núñez, Shawn Armstrong, Hector Velázquez, Anthony Santander and Asher Wojciechowski.
This agreement will lead to rosters being frozen until the second spring training begins, presumably. The Orioles currently have a roster of 50, including 17 right-handed pitchers, nine lefties, five catchers, 11 infielders and eight outfielders.
USA Today reported that the sides are willing to play up until Thanksgiving, if necessary, just to play as close to a full season’s worth of games as possible. Still having an All-Star Game is unlikely, but has not been ruled out.
This could lead to playoff games only at warm-weather locales or at indoor facilities. That would likely lead to smaller crowds and not much atmosphere for some of the games. It is not ideal, but if you want to play baseball in November, in a year unlike any other, it may be necessary.
Tony Clark, head of the Players Association, told reporters yesterday his side is “very open” to playing games with no fans if it comes to that. He also said the players are open to experimenting during this unique season. That could mean a variety of things to possibly include seven-inning doubleheaders and placing a runner on second base in extra innings. Clark said the players are open to making this season a “laboratory,” so to speak, if necessary.
It’s clear that right now for MLB, many things remain on the table to try to have a season during this strange, strange time.
A note from Minor League Baseball: Minor League Baseball announced a free preview of its subscription-based streaming service, MiLB.TV, which will remain free until opening night of the 2020 season. Fans can stream any game from the 2019 season and several all-star games and playoff games.
The MiLB.TV archives include more than 18,000 hours of MiLB content, including every Triple-A and Double-A game from 2019 and more than 1,500 games from other classifications. Seven league all-star games are available to stream, as well as select playoff games and the Triple-A National Championship Game. The 6,500 games streamed on MiLB.TV in 2019 can be accessed online at MiLB.TV or on Apple and Android devices with the MiLB First Pitch app.