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MLB, MLBPA Reach Deal on the Handling of the 2020 Season

MLB: AL Wild Card-Tampa Bay Rays at Oakland Athletics Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY Sports

The AP is reporting that MLB and the MLBPA have reached a deal on how to handle the 2020 season. The highlights:

  • If no games are played, players will get credit for service time equal to what they accrued in 2019. That applies to any players currently on a 40 man roster, the 60 day IL, or an outright assignment to the minors on a Major League Contract. Notably, that means players like Mookie Betts who had been slated for free agency after the season will hit the market and don’t have to wait another year. If games are played, service time will be pro-rated to what they player could have earned in a full season.
  • Players eligible for arbitration before the 2021 season will get their 2020 salary again if no games are played.
  • Players won’t be guaranteed their salaries for 2020. The league will advance the players $170 million (something like 4% of full payroll), with bigger payouts targeted to players who earn less (and presumably might actually need the money). That advance doesn’t have to be paid back if the whole season is cancelled, but it’ll be clawed back if games are paid and salaries start being paid again.
  • MLB was given the right to cut the 2020 draft down to 5 rounds, and the 2021 draft down to 20. From the wording, the number of rounds may be a minimum, not the final number, but it’s hard to tell. The draft will be delayed, possibly until as late as July 20th. Signing bonuses will be divided up over three years, with 10% due within 30 days, and 45% on July 1 of each of the next two years. There will be a $20,000 bonus cap for undrafted free agents.
  • The international signing period has been moved back from July 2 to January 15 of the next year.
  • Both sides agree to try to play as many games as possible this season, within the bounds of government rules and player health and safety. Several ideas to get more games in, including playing into November and hosting the playoffs only in neutral sites with warm weather or domes and playing more doubleheaders, but it doesn’t sound like anything is formalized yet.

The players approved the deal unanimously on Thursday afternoon, and it’s expected the teams will approve today. Once the agreement is ratified, all roster will freeze and no signings, trade, options, DFAs, or IL placements will be allowed. That explains why the Jays felt the need to make some moves on Thursday, sending Santiago Espinal, Thomas Pannone, and Jacob Waguespack to Buffalo.

The service time ruling is potentially significant for the Blue Jays. It won’t have an impact on Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio, or Danny Jansen, who should be credited with one, one, and two completed seasons of service, respectively, by the end of 2020, whether there are games or not. For Bo Bichette, though, no games would mean getting credited with only 63 days of service time, like he earned in 2019. That would mean he’d finish the season with 126, fewer than the 172 needed to qualify for a full year of service. As a result, the Jays would get his 2026 rights if no games were played. I have to say, I’d feel for him if that ended up happening. It’s not one of the thousand most important consequences of what’s going on, but it’s a reminder that the pandemic will have complex implications for every part of society, and it’ll be ages before we understand them all.