Major League Baseball Opening Day was scheduled for Thursday, March 26th, but the coronavirus outbreak has led to an indefinite delay. There is no timeline yet for a return, but MLB and the MLB Players Association have been negotiating how to handle this unprecedented situation.
The collective bargaining agreement provided for the commissioner to suspend player contracts, and with owners’ claiming concerns about cash flow, the two sides were able to work out some short term fixes. Jeff Passan first reported the plan that will advance players $170 million for April and May. If the season is cancelled, the money will not be repaid, but if the season is played out in some fashion, the salaries the players will receive in a shortened season will be prorated based upon days on the roster or injured list, as noted by Ken Rosenthal.
The big thing players got was a guarantee that they will receive service time in the event the season is cancelled. As noted by Rosenthal, “The number of days a player received in 2019 would be the same number he would receive for 2020. The players also will earn a full year of service in a shortened ’20 season, regardless of how many games the schedule includes.”
In exchange for the service time, players agreed to prorated salaries if they are unable to play a 162-game schedule. Additionally, the agreement allows baseball to shorten the draft from 40 rounds to five and limit Bonuses. Non-draft players would receive no more than $20,000 as opposed to the previous $125,000 — a big deal in particular if the league cuts the draft down to five rounds. Additionally, “the [draft] signing bonuses will remain at 2019 levels for the next two years” after typically rising by about three percent in recent years.
MLB Network Insider Jon Heyman offered some interesting insight into what the schedule could look like. He tweeted that the best case right now is a late May start with a hope for playing 140 games. The playoffs could go into November, and depending on if cold weather teams make it, potentially playing the World Series at a neutral site in a warm weather location.
There’s a lot on the table, and this is a very fluid situation. They’ve got a plan in place once baseball does return, but scheduling remains in flux until they have a firmer idea of when they might actually be able to return. Some of the nuts and bolts are being put into place, but the whole thing is still a ways off.