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MLBPA and league reach agreement for a truncated season

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MLB Welcome To Australia Press Conference Photo by Matt King/MLB via Getty Images

The good news is that the players and the league have made a deal, which means that if we pass through this pandemic at some point during the next few months, baseball games will be played in 2020.

Those are sort of the marquee points of the deal. There’s bad news, though, and that’s in the not so fine print. The full deal will either come out later tonight or at some point tomorrow, but Jeff Passan and others have managed to dig out some other key points:

This means Kevin Gausman might never throw a pitch for the Giants yet still have been a Giant. Same with Drew Smyly. Hunter Pence’s return? This t-shirt and great photo ops. Mauricio Dubon gains service time without playing an inning or experience, though, and that’s a problem.

But also, Shaun Anderson and Steven Duggar’s demotions make a lot more sense now. The team knew this deal was on the horizon and so rather than let these players accrue service time days that would hasten their march towards arbitration, they moved them off the active roster.

The players were never going to get their full paychecks in a canceled or even truncated season because of the force majeure provision — which you can glimpse on every baseball ticket:

In the event of a riot, war, terrorism, or rebellion, fire, flood, severe storm, accident, other act of God, a player strike, management lockout, walk out, postponement or any other work stoppage (whether or not the Club have supported such work stoppage) (each a “force majeure event”) makes it impractical or impossible for the Club to play one or more home games at the Ballpark during the Term, or causes the postponement or cancellation of any other event scheduled to take place at the Ballpark, or if such force majeure event otherwise renders any seat licensed under this Agreement unusable or prevents the Club from providing any other product or service under this Agreement, then the Club’s obligations under this Agreement shall be suspended during the period of such inability, and such inability shall not be deemed a breach of this Agreement by the Club. If, as a consequence of such force majeure event, any Club regular season home game is cancelled and not rescheduled, then the fees payable under this Agreement for that Season shall be abated for each such regular season game that is cancelled and not rescheduled on a pro-rata basis (based on the number of regular season home games scheduled for the applicable season) and applied as a credit towards future payment obligations of Account Holder hereunder. This shall be the exclusive remedy for any cancelled game or for being deprived of access to the Ballpark due to a force majeure event.

— but it made sense for both sides to come to some sort of agreement that acknowledged the severity of the situation and its commensurate effects on the industry.

I’m not a legal expert or even amateur legal analyst, so I’m just going to do poor math and say that $170 million divided by two gives us $85 million a month, divided by the 780 players that make up 26 roster spots multiplied by the 30 teams equals $108,974.36 per player a month, before taxes and applicable fees. I have no idea if a portion of these funds would also be set aside for the “player benefits” we hear about in the competitive balance tax calculations at season’s end (usually in the range of $15 million per team).

But we can agree that it’s far less than the league minimum, far less than the major free agent deals. And this isn’t really an issue.

The minor leaguers are absolutely hosed.

The draftees are sort of a separate issue, and are actually in somewhat better shape, depending on how you view the NCAA:

As our old friend Kevin Cunningham mentions,

A 5-Round Draft And Delayed Bonuses Will Likely Make Many Players Choose to Go To High School or Stay In College

The top guys that we expect to make top money will absolutely still get drafted, like Austin Martin and Spencer Torkelson, likely to be among the top 5 picks. But a lot of players in those other rounds are bigger questions. High School players often make up those middle rounds. A 7th round pick could still make hundreds of thousands of dollars. But now in the 2020 draft, they would only make a maximum of $20,000, and they’d get exactly $2,000 of that bonus to live on for their first pro year.

Other college players gain and lose leverage, too, and you can read more about it in Kevin’s analysis.

But the undrafted effectively find themselves in the same boat as current minor leaguers, who haven’t received a paycheck since September. And a lot of minor leaguers might actually find themselves in the same boat as the undrafted in very short order.

Not quite sure what I’m talking about here? Kevin wrote up MLB’s proposed reboot of the minor leagues back in October. Basically, MLB wants to cut down its financial obligations to minor league teams and scale down the volume of players and personnel who participate in their farm systems.

This will have the effect of removing pro ball of any kind from a lot of American cities, and for a sport that prides itself on being a source of civic pride and a responsible member of the community, the plan came off as so antithetical to their stated goals as to be immoral.

But these are trying times and Major League Baseball is in a position to really try to do whatever they want as one of the few firms that will easily withstand a global financial collapse. The owners, most of the major league players, and even some draftees from prior years will be okay this year, too; but the courses of an unknowable number of lives are about to change forever.

And in terms of the league itself, it could go either way. I’d like to believe that a deal in a time of crisis might actually lead to smooth sailing on the next CBA; but I think reality suggests that while the players did well for themselves to get some money in what might’ve been a money-less scenario, the owners now have the leverage to dictate terms of the MLBPA’s surrender at the bargaining table in the interest of preventing another work long work stoppage.

I’d say buckle up, but as responsible citizens, we can’t go anywhere right now.