No matter how many games are played this season, Phillies star wide receiver JT Realmuto will still be eligible for free will when it comes to an end.
Major League Baseball and its players agreed on Thursday on a deal that will overhaul the sport’s economic system in light of what is expected to be an abridged season due to the coronavirus pandemic, according to a source. Players have voted to approve the deal, which is expected to be ratified by owners on Friday.
Highlights of the deal are expected to include the allocation of a full season of player service, meaning Realmuto, Mookie Betts and other eligible players will be able to hit the free agent market, as expected, in the winter.
But while arrangements are also being made for the amateur draft, the parties have agreed to discuss what a shortened season might look like.
There will also likely be a trading freeze once the deal is finalized, according to a source. On Thursday, the Phillies picked six players for the triple A in anticipation of the freeze, leaving them with 53 players in the major league camp.
Meanwhile, Commissioner Rob Manfred appeared on ESPN’s SportsCenter on Wednesday night – the day before what would have been opening day – and promised that baseball would be played this season, possibly as early as May, but with a shortened schedule.
“The only thing I’m sure is baseball will be back,” Manfred told the network. “Whenever it’s safe to play, we’ll come back. Our fans will be back, our players will be back, and we’ll be part of the recovery, the healing.”
Manfred said the MLB receives advice from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the World Health Organization and other leading infectious disease experts. Based on those conversations, he said his “optimistic outlook” is for the teams to return to the field in May.
Whenever that moment comes, baseball will have to figure out the logistics of resuming spring training (send the teams back to Florida and Arizona or hold spring training in their hometown?) And decide how many the 162 game season can be salvaged. While owners and players alike share a desire to play as many games as possible, Manfred has suggested that a full season is unrealistic.
“I think the exact number we consider reasonable will depend on when we get the green light to play,” Manfred said. “I don’t have an absolute number in mind that is decisive. I think we have to assess the situation. I also think we have to be creative in terms of the schedule, playoff format looks like.
“Obviously our fans love a 162-game season and the format we have in the playoffs. We probably won’t be able to do that this year. I think that’s clear. It gives us the opportunity to make some different things, to experiment and make sure that we have as many games as possible and a product that is as entertaining as possible. “
One possibility includes more doubles schedules, perhaps even shortening those matches to seven innings to reduce players’ physical toll during a compressed schedule that would include fewer days off. Another idea is to extend the playoffs into November or maybe even December and play the World Series at a neutral venue in warmer weather.
Manfred told ESPN that “nothing is on the table” in terms of ideas for the baseball resumption.
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But no decision can be made until the MLB determines a new start date. And while Manfred wants to be optimistic, it’s unclear when the league will get the proverbial green light.
“I think this will mark a real step in getting back to normalcy,” said Manfred. “I think you saw it after September 11, in terms of resuming play. I was at Shea Stadium the night we started playing. It was one of the most memorable games I have ever attended.
“It is an honor for our sport to be seen as part of our country coming back from some horrific events, and we hope we can play a similar role in this one.”