On June 23, MLB owners and the Players Union agreed to the health and safety protocols that will preside over the sport for the 2020 league year. After months of failed negotiations in regards to what a season in the midst of a pandemic would look like, with game count and financials being major points of contrast, the owners have implemented a 60-game season. The players will report to training camp on July 1 and experience a shortened Spring Training schedule leading up to Opening Day, which is expected to be held July 23 or 24. The season will be completed on September 27. The owners and players have also agreed to a full prorated salary for the shortened season, perhaps the biggest point of contention throughout this long, drawn out negotiation process.
The biggest concern moving forward is, of course, the potential ramifications from COVID-19. Players will be tested every other day, according to the 100-page health and safety manual. Players with pre-existing Coronavirus-related conditions are allowed to opt out of the season and get paid in full, as well as maintain their MLB career service time. Players without those conditions can still opt out, but will do so forgoing salary and service time.
The league will be testing out a couple of on-the-field changes in 2020, items that have been on the table during the last few Winter Meetings. Two big changes stand out among the rest: the National League utilizing a Designated Hitter throughout the regular and postseason, as well as teams beginning extra innings with a runner on second base in an attempt to cut down the length of games. Both are sure to be under heavy review and consideration for long term placement ahead of the new collective bargaining agreement (CBA). The current CBA expires at the end of the 2021 season.
The league officially reopened on June 26, unlocking rosters to fill up with any remaining free agency signings. There will also be a few modifications to how a team roster will shape for the shortened season, and it will be interesting to see how teams fill out their teams. Each club will have a 60-man player pool eligible to participate in MLB this season, which will consist of the normal 40-man roster plus a 20-man “taxi squad”. The season will begin with 30-man active rosters for the first two weeks, a 28-man active roster for the following two weeks, then a 26-man active roster for the remainder of the season. Teams had until June 28, to submit their 60-man rosters. The league has also contacted the city of Nashville to host two full teams of unsigned players who will be paid to play and stay in shape as potential replacement players. It is not yet clear how this will work or who would be involved yet, but it is in discussion as a possibility. As of June 30, it was announced that Minor League Baseball would forego this season and not field any games.
The 60-game schedule for the season will consist of the following: 40 games against each teams' four division rivals, with the remaining 20 games being against a teams corresponding to Interleague division opponents (NL West vs. AL West, Central vs. Central, East vs. East). The trade deadline will move from July 31 to August 31, just under one month before the season ends. The proposed expanded playoffs set t take place in 2020 has been but on hold, and the more traditional-as-of-late five teams per league will reach the postseason. Two Wild Card teams will play a single Wild Card Game in each league, with winners moving on to the League Division Series. From there, the final five postseason series will remain as best-of-seven series.
Assuming all goes well and there are no repercussions due to COVID-19 going forward, a World Series champion will be crowned in 2020.
CIH Media Contributor