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Questions remain as MLB & players union hash out details of baseball’s hiatus

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Players have the choice to remain near the spring training facility or to go home.

Major League Baseball Suspends Spring Training Photo by Christian Petersen/Getty Images

A day after baseball suspended operations, we are in a limbo period. But though there is clarification on some issues as Major League Baseball and the players union meet, a few questions remain.

For one, spring training for all intents and purposes is over, at least formally. Major League Baseball announced on Friday afternoon that spring training camps would be suspended, effective immediately.

A memo sent Friday by MLBPA head Tony Clark to all players answered a few basic questions as discussions with the league are ongoing. Joel Sherman of the New York Post obtained a copy of the memo, and among the expectations is that players will be given three choices, which echo the official word from MLB:

  • Players can stay near the spring training facility as they are currently doing, in Arizona and Florida
  • Players can travel to the club’s home city
  • Players can travel to their home

Teams will also assist in finding or extending housing arrangements where necessary. Given that the start of the season is still very much to be determined, and many in the game expect no games before May at the earliest, any of these options are reasonable. Sherman explained the choices at hand on MLB Network:

Yankees players, for instance, voted to all remain in Tampa, Florida.

It’s unclear just yet what the Dodgers’ plans are, though manager Dave Roberts said Thursday that players were “adamant” about remaining at Camelback Ranch, per Ken Gurnick of MLB.com, but that could obviously change if the hiatus drags on.

On Friday, Andrew Friedman said players have the opportunity to workout in either Glendale, Arizona or Los Angeles:

Given that we won’t have baseball for a while, major and minor league umpires are going home, too, per Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports.

If the players remain near spring training, they can still use the facilities to workout, continue rehab, throw, or hit in the cages, but there won’t be any structured baseball activities. There will be team medical staff onsite, which can help not only remaining in game shape but also to monitor the ongoing coronavirus situation.

The collective bargaining agreement calls for players in big league camp to receive weekly allowances while at the facility, which is roughly $341 per week.

It’s unclear how non-40-man players will be provided for, perhaps on a team-by-team basis:

Among the issues still to be determined involves service time accrual. A normal regular season is 187 days long, and it takes 172 days to accumulate a full year. This is important for things like salary arbitration (“Super Two” players in the top 22% of their class of at least two but not yet three years service time end up getting four years of arbitration instead of three) and free agency. It takes six full years of service time to reach free agency. This has been manipulated for years by teams to game the system, most famously recently by the Cubs with Kris Bryant, who at the moment has four years, 171 days of service time, ever so conveniently one day shy of five years. He’ll be a free agent after 2021 instead of 2020.

But as it pertains to this season, should the season be cut short — a distinct possibility if opening day gets pushed to May or June — will the threshold be changed to account for not as many accrual days in 2020? Sherman notes in his article that this is among the items being discussed by MLB and the players union.

Another wrinkle is that the president on Friday declared a national emergency in the country concerning the coronavirus pandemic. That applies to baseball again per the collective bargaining agreement, with this clause in every uniform player contract:

This contract is subject to federal or state legislation, regulations, executive or other official orders or other governmental action, now or hereafter in effect respecting military, naval, air or other governmental service, which may directly or indirectly affect the Player, Club or the League and subject also to the right of the Commissioner to suspend the operation of this contract during any national emergency during which Major League Baseball is not played.

We are still in the infancy stages of just how this all plays out, with the only thing certain that we won’t have baseball for a while. For now, we continue to wait as the details get hammered out.