No, the deal made official Friday between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association does not get us any closer to figuring out when the 2020 season will start or what it will look like once it does.
But the driving force of any business — money — has been figured out. And that allows the two sides to move on to the things the fans care about most: when they'll see their favorite teams back on the field.
The deal, the details of which were reported Thursday and Friday by multiple reporters, including ESPN's Jeff Passan and The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, has several main accomplishments, most appealing only to the wonkiest of baseball followers:
— Here's the big one as far as the start of the 2020 season is concerned: The season won't start until there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans, there are no travel restrictions and medical experts determine games will not pose a risk to health of teams and fans. That's doesn't add anything in terms of knowing a potential date, but it shows the league and players are committed to playing games with fans present. Though as so many things remain unknown and there's no knowing how long this delay could last, the two sides will consider playing games at neutral sites instead of home ballparks and will consider playing in empty stadiums if those end up being the best possible solutions.
— Players have final say over how many games will be played this season and when. The league cannot make that determination without player approval.
— Players will get paid, first and foremost in a lump sum of $170 million spread out over April and May. Their salaries will be prorated depending on the number of games the 2020 season ends up having. In the event of no season at all, the players get to keep that $170 million but have agreed not to sue the owners for their full salaries.
— Players will get their service time. Service time drives players' ability to earn, so it was understandably a big deal. A year of service is a certain number of days spent on a big league roster, and once six years' worth of service time is earned, players can head to free agency and receive big paydays. Under this deal, players will get a full season's worth of service time if they're in the big leagues the whole season, even if that season is much shorter than normal. If the season is canceled altogether, they'll get the same amount of service time they got in 2019 added to their career total. Basically, even in the worst-case scenario of no season at all, free agency will proceed as scheduled for the players.
— The arbitration process will be altered. Arbitration awards have been handed out based on past performance compared to other statistics. But those statistics will obviously not match up when comparing production from a shortened season to those from full seasons, which this deal takes into account.
— The draft will happen, even if it's shortened. There was a report that the league was considering scrapping the draft altogether this summer. That won't happen now, but the draft could be as short as five rounds, as opposed to the typical 40. That would be as a money-saving measure for the owners, who annually spend hundreds of millions on signing bonuses for draftees and international free agents. But with revenues expected to be significantly decreased in a shortened season, this will allow the owners to spend that money elsewhere.
There is a ton more that needs to be figured out in order for the 2020 season to be played. Not only, though, can that not happen until there is greater clarity in general life in the middle of the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, but all this needed to happen first.
According to MLB Network's Jon Heyman, many possible changes are under consideration, including expanded playoffs, expanded rosters, neutral-site playoff games and increased doubleheaders.
But hammering out a deal on these financial issues, potentially of less interest to fans but of utmost importance to the players and the owners, allow those other decisions to happen in the future.Click here to download the new MyTeams App by NBC Sports! Receive comprehensive coverage of your teams and stream the White Sox easily on your device.