Phillies

What MLB's new deal with players' association means for Phillies

What MLB's new deal with players' association means for Phillies

MLB and the players' association finalized a deal Friday that affects service time, the draft, salaries, the 2020 schedule and more.

Let's go piece by piece.

When will the season begin?

"Not until there are no bans on mass gatherings that limit the ability to play in front of fans and no travel restrictions," according to ESPN.

This runs counter to the idea that games could take place in empty stadiums.

An early-June start to the regular season still seems like a best-case scenario.

Service time

This was the main sticking point for players. They needed to know that they would be credited with a full year of service time even in the event of a canceled season. A canceled season is not viewed as the likelihood at this point but all bases needed to be covered.

Players will receive a full year of service time no matter if the season is 120, 162 or zero games. The days of service credited to a player will be the same number he received in 2019. For someone like Rhys Hoskins, it will mean a full year of service time. For someone like Ranger Suarez, who wasn't called up until the first week of June in 2019, it will reflect closer to a half-season's worth of service time.

Why is this important? Because service time determines eligibility for free agency and arbitration. It wouldn't have been fair to make J.T. Realmuto wait another year for free agency because of circumstances outside his control. Nor would it have been fair to delay Hoskins' three arbitration years, which begin after the 2020 season.

Service time was the most important point for major-league players because there is so much to be gained financially by accruing another year.

2020 MLB draft

The league can limit the 2020 MLB draft to five rounds if it so chooses. Much less scouting can even be done this spring, but this looks like a cost-cutting measure. Signing bonuses to draftees will be deferred. According to The Athletic, draftees will receive $100,000 up front with the rest deferred to 2021 and 2022 in equal amounts. 

Signing bonuses for drafted players will stay at 2019 levels rather than rise by 3-3.5% annually the way they tend to.

For an undrafted player, the richest signing bonus a team can give is $20,000 compared to $125,000 previously. This clearly hurts younger players trying to break into the bigs over the next year. 


Lump-sum advance

If the 2020 season never takes place, players waived their right to sue the league for full salaries in exchange for an advance payment of $170 million. 

This $170 million will be distributed to four tiers of players and most of it will go to players on guaranteed major-league deals.

The amount a player is advanced would come out of his prorated 2020 salary if/when games begin.

Transaction freeze

Rosters will be frozen beginning today. This is partially why the Phillies optioned six players to Triple A on Thursday.

Expanded rosters

Rosters were already set to expand from 25 to 26 this season. Now, rosters will expand to 29 for the first month of the 2020 regular season, according to USA Today

All teams will need more arms as starting pitchers build back up. This is good news for players battling for bench or bullpen jobs. It makes it more likely that all three of Logan Forsythe, Josh Harrison and Neil Walker make the team. There is still much to be decided in the bullpen. Victor Arano and Tommy Hunter could be ready for the new season opener.

Regular season length

Still TBD. The regular season will certainly extend into October and the playoffs could continue until late November. Neutral sites would likely need to be used if cold-weather, outdoor teams advance that far. You could potentially see a Cardinals-Yankees World Series played in Tampa.

Playoff format

A way to recoup some of the lost money from the shortened season is to expand the playoff field, which was likely to happen even before the coronavirus outbreak. Currently, 10 teams make the playoffs, with two in each league competing in the one-game wild-card round. MLB could expand to 12 or 14 playoff teams, which would drastically change the regular season and be an obvious benefit to a team like the Phillies.

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The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

The OG Phillie Phanatic wants Major League Baseball to lighten up

Dave Raymond, the OG Phillie Phanatic, was alarmed when he read the news earlier this week.

No Mascots!

Has Major League Baseball lost its mind?

Or worse, its sense of humor?

Don’t misunderstand, Raymond, the man who breathed life into that big ball of green fur from the time it debuted in 1978 until 1993, is all for ridding the world of this nasty coronavirus beast. He’s all for social distancing, frequent handwashing and everything else that goes with protecting folks from getting sick. He knows how serious this thing is.

And that’s why he’s hoping that MLB won’t follow through on its plan to ban mascots from games when and if the sport comes back with a proposed 82-game schedule in July.

“I understand that only essential personnel can physically be at the games,” Raymond said Friday. “But I would argue that in these serious times mascots are more essential than ever.”

After shedding the Phanatic’s fur and handing the keys to the ATV to the equally brilliant Tom Burgoyne 26 years ago, Raymond dedicated his professional life to the concept of fun. It’s serious business. Raymond has owned and operated companies that help professional teams and college sports programs develop mascots/brands. He has trained mascots and helped found a mascot Hall of Fame. His current focus is motivational speaking. Everything is centered around the Power of Fun — which just so happens to be the title of his book — and how it can make a difference in people’s lives.

In these trying times when lives have been lost, when people have gotten sick and when the world has wrapped a mask around its face and gone into quarantine, Raymond is preaching louder than ever about the importance of a little fun and the respite it can offer in difficult times.

“It’s a scientific fact that laughing helps a person emotionally and physically,” he said.

That’s why he believes mascots need to have their place in baseball’s return.

“Mascots are a reflection of the fans’ heart and soul and part of the reason fans get emotionally connected to their teams,” he said. “During this time, we need the connection they provide more than ever. I understand that fans can’t be in the stadiums, but that doesn’t mean you can’t still engage them through mascots and character brands. Baseball needs to be creative and carve out space for entertainment.”

Raymond proposes that mascots be featured on television broadcasts when the game returns. It would be kind of funny to see a camera pan over to the Phanatic sitting all alone in section 305. Maybe even have Bobby Vinton’s Mr. Lonely play in the background.

If the Phanatic absolutely, positively cannot be in the ballpark, then he could be featured through technology and social media. Raymond proposed live streaming the Phanatic, wherever he might be, watching the game. Run it across social media platforms and have fans follow along. Raymond also proposed prerecording videos that could feature fans playing catch with the final throw landing in the Phanatic’s glove as he stands on the field. Another idea: Replace the Phanatic’s middle-of-the-fifth-inning dance skit with a live Zoom call on Phanavision and let fans log in. He’d like to see this stuff in every major league city.

“I understand it’s safety first, but there’s still room to lighten things up a little,” Raymond said.

Raymond is sharing this message with mascots who have been sidelined all over the country, from the major leagues to the minor leagues to the colleges. He has personally tutored many of them. They are his friends. Some have been furloughed from their jobs.

“It’s really devastating,” he said.

On Tuesday, Raymond will host a Zoom webinar for mascots and officials from teams, leagues and colleges that he has worked with over the years. It’s titled What The Heck Should My Mascot Do Now?

For Dave Raymond, the answer is simple:

Follow the rules, but by all means, be creative, embrace technology and mascot on.

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

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Phillies Talk podcast: Locations, opponents, details on Spring Training II

On today's Phillies Talk podcast, Jim Salisbury and I discussed what Spring Training II could look like amid Jim's report that the Phillies will likely get to stay home and train in South Philadelphia.

• Benefits of having camp at home.

• Who could Phillies play in Spring Training II?

• What happens to the minor-leaguers? Will there even be a minor-league season?

• Just how big could regular-season rosters get?

• Spencer Howard will likely put pressure on Nick Pivetta and Vince Velasquez.

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