With the 2020 Major League Baseball season currently on hold due to the coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, there have been a couple of pressing issues to surface in regard to the business side of the sport.
One of the biggest questions on the mind of players pertains to service time. Should the regular season face a lengthy delay or get cancelled entirely, some pondered what the potential ramifications would be for those nearing free agency or salary arbitration.
The MLB Players Association was said to be seeking credit for a full year of service time in the event of a worst-case scenario playing out — the entire 2020 season being cancelled.
Despite some early disagreements, MLB has reportedly found a solution with the MLBPA that will guarantee of a full year of service to players who remain active regardless of how many games are played during the 2020 season, via Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
MLB has agreed to grant a full year of service to players who remain active for the entire 2020 season regardless of how many games the schedule includes, according to sources familiar with the discussions.
However, there are still some obstacles to overcome for both sides as it relates to the possibility of the season being cancelled, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel:
A stalemate over the doomsday scenario of a cancellation of the 2020 season and its impact on service time, which counts the number of days played in the major leagues and determines a number of milestones, including when a player reaches free agency and arbitration, has complicated negotiations, sources said.
While MLB hopes to resume play by early June, that is certainly no guarantee if the coronavirus outbreak worsens.
A lost season would particularly be detrimental to soon-to-be free agents such as newly-acquired Los Angeles Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts, who turned down multiple contract extensions with the Boston Red Sox for the opportunity to test the open market in 2020.
Betts needs 102 days of service time in order to reach free agency this winter. He would figure to reach that benchmark even with the start of the season being delayed to mid-May or early June.
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