MLB and the Players Association reached an agreement on service-time issues caused by the delayed season. How does this impact the Boston Red Sox?
The Boston Red Sox still haven’t returned to playing baseball but we did get an important update that effects the team’s future on what would have been Opening Day.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, Major League Baseball reached an agreement with the MLB Players Association Thursday night, resolving a wide-ranging series of issues created by the coronavirus pandemic that has delayed the 2020 season indefinitely.
The report makes it clear that both sides are intent on playing as many games as possible this year. The details of how that will be feasible still need to be hashed out but MLB is eyeing mid-May as a target to restart training camp with the season opening sometime in June.
Extending the regular season into October is an option being discussed, with neutral-site playoff games in dome stadiums or southern climates being a potential solution to cold weather concerns if the postseason extends into November or beyond.
Regardless of how creative they get, a reduced schedule is almost certain if the season can’t start before June and the threat of a canceled season still looms as a worst-case scenario. Any revision to the number of games played would have consequences relating to salary and service time, which this new agreement has rectified. No matter how many games are played, even in the event of a canceled season, players can still receive a full year of service time.
This means that players scheduled for free agency after this season will still hit the open market as planned. Naturally, this has Red Sox fans dreaming of a scenario where Mookie Betts could return to Boston without ever playing a regular season game in Dodger blue. Imagine a world where the Red Sox acquired assets in a deal that allowed the Dodgers to rent Betts for a season that never happens. Under the terms of this agreement, that’s now a real possibility.
Bringing back Betts remains a long shot but the Red Sox have several other players on their current roster approaching free agency. Jackie Bradley Jr. and Brandon Workman are the most notable players in that group. Their days in Boston could be dwindling and it’s possible we’ve seen the last of them in a Red Sox uniform if there is no 2020 season.
J.D. Martinez will have another opportunity to opt-out of his deal next winter. He decided to stay this year, in part due to the uncertainty of if his market would present offers more lucrative than the $23.75 million he expected to make in 2020.
Salaries will be prorated based on the number of games played this year, meaning Martinez won’t earn quite as much if we don’t get a 162-game schedule. With his salary falling to $19.35 million in each of the final two years of his deal, Martinez could have more incentive to opt-out in an attempt to recoup some of the salary lost this year with a larger free-agent contract.
Under the terms of this new agreement, players won’t be penalized in regards to service time towards arbitration. These timelines remain unchanged so Rafael Devers will still be eligible for arbitration for the first time next year and eligible for free agency in 2023. A canceled season would mean losing out on another year of Devers at a dirt cheap salary.
MLB also plans to adjust the arbitration rules so that players aren’t penalized for piling up fewer counting stats in a shortened season and they are protected in the event of a canceled season. Arbitration-eligible players such as Eduardo Rodriguez and Andrew Benintendi could see a bump in salary for the 2021 season even if their production in a short season doesn’t stack up to the past comparable players that arbitration salaries are partially based on.
There are some positive takeaways from this agreement in regards to Boston’s finances. We now know that the timeline for shedding the bloated contracts of Dustin Pedroia, Nathan Eovaldi and Chris Sale won’t be altered. The Red Sox are still only responsible for paying half of David Price‘s contract through 2022.
There is no perfect solution but MLB and the Players Association are making the best of a bad situation. Neither side wants to be on the wrong end of the public backlash that would result from bickering about money when the rest of us are dealing with a worldwide health crisis.
This agreement is fair to the players who shouldn’t be penalized for missing games that will inevitably be trimmed from the schedule. Unfortunately, this could also mean that some of our favorite players will have fewer games remaining in a Red Sox uniform than we thought.