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MLB, Players Association agree to deal regarding 2020 season contingencies

It’s nice to see the two sides work something out. It’s not so nice for it to come at the expense of amateurs and the low-minors.

MLB: Baseball Hall of Fame-Induction Ceremony Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

We all know there is a big fight coming at some point relatively soon between MLB and the Players Association with their collective bargaining agreement set to expire at the end of the 2021 season. In the meantime, however, they have more pressing matters to which to attend regarding the 2020 season. We still have no idea if they’ll be able to play at all, and if they do when they’ll be able to do so. It is an unprecedented situation with lots of questions to be answered before they can even think about resuming player. On Thursday, the two sides agreed to a deal to take care of all of these issues. It still needs to be ratified by both sides on Friday, but that is seen to be a formality. Jeff Passan of ESPN was first on this.

Passan, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic and Evan Drellich of The Athletic were tweeting out various details, some of which I will outline below.

  • Service time was the biggest issue to hammer out, and players will earn their service time no matter what. If they play a shortened season, players will get a pro-rated amount of service time relative to a 162-game season. If they stay on the roster (or are injured) for the duration of the shortened season, they get a full year.
  • If there is no season at all, players will get the amount of service time they received in 2019.
  • The MLB Draft, which will be pushed back to a later date no later than July, is going to be five rounds unless the league decides to bump it up to ten. It is fully under their discretion. The international signing period will be pushed back to January 2021. Furthermore, MLB has the right to shorten the 2021 draft to 20 rounds and push the July 2021 international signing period to January 2022.
  • Roster moves will be frozen once this deal is officially in place. The two sides will agree upon when rosters can unfreeze.
  • The Luxury Tax will be unchanged as well.

Alright. So a few things here. For one thing, it is good that this is done and over with. The longer this was hanging over everything, the worse. That said, it’s not a good deal for a significant population of the baseball community. We’ll get to that in a second.

First, the Red Sox may have fallen ass backwards into a very lucky situation for them. For one thing, players getting that full year of service time no matter what means Mookie Betts gets that full year of service time no matter what. In other words, there is a very real possibility that they could get Alex Verdugo, Jeter Downs and Connor Wong in exchange for just David Price, essentially. They could also re-sign Betts this winter potentially, though as I’ve said before I still find that unlikely. On top of that, the draft restrictions clearly take away significant value from this class and likely next year’s as well. Guess who is awaiting a punishment that very well could talk away picks from the next two years? Plus, that luxury tax news means (if I am interpreting it correctly) that the penalties will be reset regardless of whether or not any games are played.

Back to the possibility of re-signing Betts, I think I find it a little less unlikely, though, and that brings me to my next point which is that the service time thing is a huge win for players. There is no doubt about that and it was clearly their singular focus here. Players like Betts having to wait an extra year for free agency would have been brutal. That being said, I’m not so sure this is that lucrative for these players. It seems possible, probably even likely, that the loss of revenue from this year is going to result in a depressed free agent market. Ultimately it’s still better to hit the free agent market sooner than later, but I’m guessing Betts and any other free agent will be getting less than they would have in just about any other market.

In order to get this service time deal, the players had to make some concessions and it was easy for them to just dump on the amateur players who are not a part of their union. Amateurs get totally screwed in this deal. The five-round draft possibility is a total joke, and that along with the deferments reported on Wednesday plus bonus caps for undrafted players means anyone besides the absolute cream of the crop would be crazy to enter the draft this year. The talent coming into the league this summer, at least domestically, is going to be as low as we’ve seen in a long time.

This also pretty transparently serves as the first step to destroying the low minors, which affects players as well as scouts and coaches and communities all across the country. We know MLB has been trying to do this, and shortening the two drafts right before the CBA expires, along with the player’s willingness to not put up a fight for this class of players, makes this a virtual uncertainty. Until proven otherwise I would basically assume teams like the Lowell Spinners will no longer exist beyond 2021, and that is just a huge bummer.

I guess I don’t want to end on such a downer note, so I suppose we can at least celebrate that their is a deal in place? I just wish it was a little better for the future of the low minors.