MLB, MLBPA agree on 2020 playing conditions, service time, draft
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Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have ratified a deal that addresses various issues for the potential 2020 season, reports Jeff Passan of ESPN.
As a result, a roster freeze is now in effect prohibiting teams from signing free agents, trading players, and making any other moves.
The two sides began discussions after Opening Day was pushed back - with a return date still unclear - due to the coronavirus pandemic.
When will the season take place?
The two sides didn't determine a start date, but the framework allows for the regular season to extend into October, while the postseason could be expanded and played in neutral sites if needed. The players are also open to playing doubleheaders during the regular season in order to maximize the number of games.
The agreement explicitly lays down the conditions needed for players to consent to suiting up in 2020:
- No bans on mass gatherings.
- No flight restrictions.
- Medical experts agree that playing games will not endanger players or fans.
Players will consider bending these conditions if playing at neutral sites or in empty stadiums are more feasible solutions.
There is no agreement yet on a new spring training or roster size.
What about the 2020 draft?
MLB can trim the 2020 draft to as few as five rounds from its usual 40 and push it back until the end of July. The draft could be expanded at the league's discretion.
Each prospect will get $100,000 of their agreed-upon bonus, with the remainder of the bonus being split into equal lump-sum payments that are paid out in 2021 and 2022. Additionally, the 2019 bonus slots will stay in effect for two more seasons.
MLB is considering running a combine for draft-eligible players in 2021 and 2022.
The upcoming international signing period slated for July 2 may be pushed back to January 2021, and the following year's signing period could also be delayed. Teams will no longer be able to trade international bonus pool money or competitive balance picks for the affected drafts.
Undrafted players can receive a maximum $20,000 signing bonus before counting against a team’s allotment, according to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic.
Will players accrue service time if the season is canceled?
If the 2020 season is canceled, players will accrue service time identical to what they received in 2019. That means those who were scheduled to hit the open market - Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, and others - will still become free agents this winter.
"Service time was the vital issue for us and feel like we got that covered fairly," St. Louis Cardinals reliever and MLBPA executive committee member Andrew Miller said, per Rosenthal. "A generation of players will not be held back due to service-time implications resulting from a partial season or in the unfortunate event of a canceled season."
Owners will advance players a total of $170 million for April and May, which players can keep if the season is canceled. If baseball is played, that money will count against final salaries.
Under an abbreviated 2020 campaign, arbitration rules will be altered so a player will not be penalized if they perform below career norms.