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MLB, union agree to deal on a shortened season

Service time, the draft, and the post-season could all change.

MLB Welcome To Australia Press Conference Photo by Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA have agreed to a deal on how to deal with some of the issues arising from the suspension in the season due to the coronavirus pandemic. Players have approved the deal, and owners are set to have a vote this morning.

You can read the full article from Jeff Passan at ESPN, but here are the main points the two sides have worked out:

  • The league is looking to return to training camp in mid-May, starting the regular season in June, possibly with no fans.
  • The regular season will include numerous doubleheaders and will extend into October. The playoffs could be held at neutral sites in warmer weather or climate controlled stadiums.
  • In the event of a canceled season, players will still receive a full year of service time this year.
  • An amended schedule for determining arbitration-eligibility.
  • MLB will advance players $170 million over the next two months, divvied among four classes of players, with the majority going to players with guaranteed contracts. Salaries will be prorated with the advance counting against salaries.
  • The draft will be moved to July, and may be as short as five rounds, at the discretion of the Commissioner. MLB can also shorten the 2021 draft to 20 rounds, and delay the 2020 and 2021 international signing periods.
  • There will be a transaction freeze that goes into effect once owners ratify the deal.

Bob Nightengale also reports that rosters will be expanded to 29 for the first month of the season.

According to Baseball America, bonuses for undrafted players will be capped at $20,000. If the draft were limited to five rounds, this could have a huge impact on teams like the Royals. Without draft slots, or the ability to outbid other clubs, undrafted free agents may overlook the Royals to go to marquee teams like the Yankees. In the pre-draft era, teams like the Yankees and Dodgers would hoard amateur talent, leaving other clubs to fight over whoever was left.

The shortening of the draft is perhaps the clearest indication that MLB intends to follow through on its proposal to slash the number of minor league affiliates. Losing an affiliation, coupled with the delays in the season due to the coronavirus, will almost certainly be the death knell for many minor league teams.

With the loss of revenue from the suspension of the season, MLB may look to recoup their losses by being creative. The league could look expand the number of post-season teams, giving its broadcast partners more content and boosting revenues.

MLB could also look to expand for the first time in over two decades, adding lucrative expansion fees to make up for lost revenue.

The Collective Bargaining Agreement between owners and players expires in 2021, so many of these issues will likely be in play for more permanent solutions. The good news is that the two sides were able to put their differences aside relatively quickly in the face of unique circumstances. The bad news is that owners seem intent on making dramatic changes to the game that players will likely be quite resistant to seeing implemented on a more permanent basis.