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MLB, MLBPA reach agreement on service time, pay, draft

Tony Clark

Port St. Lucie, Fl.: Tony Clark, executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association answers questions about the Houston Astros’ sign stealing scandal at Clover Park in Port St. Lucie, Florida on February 19, 2020. Clark met with New York Mets players before their spring training workout. (Photo by Alejandra Villa Loarca/Newsday via Getty Images)

Newsday via Getty Images

ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association have reached an agreement on a deal pertaining to issues including service time, pay, and the amateur draft. The deal is expected to be ratified by the owners on Friday.

A report indicated yesterday that players would get credited for a full year of service time for games played in 2020. However, per Passan, every player on an active roster will get service time whether or not there is a 2020 season. That means players like Mookie Betts, J.T. Realmuto, Trevor Bauer, and Marcus Stroman will become free agents heading into the 2021 season. If there is a season, pay will be prorated. Players will also not be penalized in arbitration for putting up lower counting stats in a shortened season. The league is advancing the players $170 million for pay in April and May. In the event there is no season, the players will keep that money, likely in exchange for not suing for the amount of their full salaries.

MLB gets the right to shorten the 2020 draft to five rounds and can delay the start of the international signing period to as late as January 2021, Passan adds. The 2021 draft can be shortened to 20 rounds, and the 2021-22 international signing period can be pushed to anytime between January and December 2022.

Lastly, Evan Drellich of The Athletic notes that a transaction freeze will be put into effect when the deal is finalized. The two sides will come to an agreement when it will be lifted.

This deal is good for all players that don’t have options remaining, meaning they are guaranteed their major league service time. It’s also great for the owners, despite an up-front cost of paying players without getting any labor in return. For everyone else -- international players, minor leaguers, would-be draftees -- the MLBPA sold them out. The MLBPA is a union and unions represent their members. Players from the aforementioned groups are not represented by the MLBPA, or any union at all. This is why many have been suggesting for years that the MLBPA should widen its umbrella, as some percentage of international players, minor leaguers, and draftees are soon-to-be union members.

Within the larger context of the upcoming negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement, perhaps tonight’s agreement is an indication that eventual labor peace can be achieved. Things were tense between ownership and the players before the pandemic.

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