This is the furthest thing from business as usual for Major League Baseball, but there was still plenty of work to be done over the last couple of weeks. The league and the MLB Players' Association have been hard at work trying to figure out what a 2020 season might look like if players are cleared to return at some point this summer, and how to prepare financially and behind the scenes.
An agreement was reached Thursday and ratified by owners Friday morning. There is plenty to catch up on, and Jeff Passan of ESPN and Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic did a nice job of providing all the information. Here are some of the key points, with notes on what they specifically mean for the Giants:
--- Service time was the main priority for the MLBPA, which wasn't a surprise. The owners have held service time over players' heads for years, and it's the main reason why top prospects are often left off April rosters. The sides agreed that a player will receive the same number of days in 2020 as he did in 2019 if the season is canceled. If there's not a full season, players will still earn a full year of service time.
This means that, no matter what, Mookie Betts will get his year of time and be a free agent at the end of the year, which is a small blow to the Dodgers. This isn't that big a deal for the Giants. Jeff Samardzija is the only player on a significant contract that will expire after this season.
There is a big difference for some other guys when it comes to getting closer to arbitration and free agency. A shortened season would still count as a full one for players like Alex Dickerson, Mike Yastrzemski and Mauricio Dubon, who were not on Opening Day rosters last year.
Under Farhan Zaidi, the Giants have mostly sat out free agency. But they're close to getting their books in order, and they should be in a nice position to jump in on big names now that there's a guarantee the 2020 free agent class will still exist. With Mission Rock and other side projects, the Giants are better positioned than most other teams to come out of this season with money to spend.
--- The draft could be as short as five rounds, per ESPN's Passan, and the internationightal signing period could be pushed back to 2021. The 2021 draft could also be shortened to 20 rounds.
The MLBPA represents players on 40-man rosters, not minor leaguers or amateurs, so there was little reason for them to fight over the draft when they were getting small wins elsewhere, like an advance on salaries. The end result m get the owners closer to eliminating some minor league teams, a goal this past offseason. It also will save them a few million in draft bonuses.
This is going to have a huge impact on the college game and junior colleges, and it's probably a big bummer for Giants scouts. Team officials believe they're a couple more good drafts away from being truly competitive, and shortened drafts in 2020 and 2021 would certainly make it harder to add talent to a system that is much improved but still needs it.
The Giants have gone all-in on player development and are counting on finding some diamonds in the rough. Take, for example, Sean Roby. He was a 12th-round draft pick out Arizona Western College in 2018 and after a solid 2019 year he got seven spring at-bats this year, picking up five hits and six RBI. Those are the types of players the Giants are hoping to get into their system and develop every year.
A five-round draft would still get some high-end talent into every system, but a lot of players would miss out on taking a shot at their dream. Dubon was a 26th-round pick. Yastrzemski went in the 14th round. Tyler Rogers was picked in the 10th round. A lot of amateurs will be left on the outside.
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--- The agreement was necessary to iron out some financial details as both sides seek further clarity on what comes next. At some point they'll need to figure out what spring training looks like, how much they'll expand rosters, if there will be an All-Star break, how many doubleheaders they can play, how late a shortened season can go, and much more.
But the league, like the rest of society, is on hold:
The players and league agreed the 2020 MLB season won't begin until:— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
- There are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans*
- There are no travel restrictions
- Medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans