On what was scheduled to be Opening Day, Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association agreed to a labor deal that will allow them to navigate an indefinite shutdown due to the coronavirus pandemic.
According to ESPN, Thursday’s agreement revolved around salary and service-time issues that have been impacted by the league delaying the start of the season until at least mid-May, which will cause significant revenue loss due to a lack of attendance and television contracts. ESPN reported that a phone call with about 80 players ended with the union accepting the proposal and ending about two weeks of negotiations between players, owners, agents, executives, union officials and the commissioner’s office. MLB owners plan to ratify the deal Friday.
Even if the season is canceled, players will receive a full year of service time, allowing potential free agents to hit the market next winter. ESPN reported that the league will advance players $170 million over the next two months. A majority of that money will go to players with guaranteed major league contracts. The Los Angeles Times reported that players agreed to accept four percent of their salaries if the season is canceled.
With uncertainty surrounding coronavirus, there aren’t many answers as far as the season goes. ESPN reports that players and owners expressed a desire to play as many games as possible, hoping to return to training camps in mid-May and start games in June — even if they have to play without fans in attendance. Both sides are also open to playing regular doubleheaders, extending the regular season and playing neutral-site playoff games at warm-weather sites. Numerous reports have said that anything is on the table for the 2020 season, including MLB Network's Jon Heyman reporting that the league may look into expanding the postseason from 10 teams to 14 teams.
While NBA and NHL employees have begun to been impacted financially, MLB teams agreed to commissioner Rob Manfred’s request to pay all employees through at least April.
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The 2020 MLB draft will also be affected by the coronavirus, moving from June to July. The typically 40-round draft may be cut to as few as five rounds.
The league and players are also still working through a new collective bargaining agreement, including the potential cutting of minor league teams, as the current CBA is scheduled to expire after the 2021 season.
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