The Journal Gazette
Thursday, March 26, 2020 1:00 am

Players could get credit for year

Proposal lets MLB free agents leave if season canceled

Ronald Blum | Associated Press

NEW YORK – Mookie Betts and all the players set to be free agents after the 2020 season would still get that chance if there is no baseball this year, part of a broad deal being negotiated by the commissioner's office and the players' association.

If there's no season because of the new coronavirus, the agreement would credit major leaguers with the same service time this year that they earned in 2019, a person familiar with the talks told The Associated Press on Wednesday. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because talks were ongoing.

Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, George Springer, JT Realmuto also would be eligible for free agency, even if the season is canceled.

Betts, the 2018 AL MVP, was acquired by the Dodgers from Boston last month for outfielder Alex Verdugo and two prospects. In a pair of deals at last July's trade deadline contemplating they would get a top pitcher for 11/3 seasons, Cincinnati obtained Bauer from Cleveland and the Mets received Stroman from Toronto.

Service time affects a player's status for free agency, salary arbitration and the pension plan. The likely service time agreement was first reported by the Athletic.

Major League Baseball and the union would agree to try to play as many regular season games as possible, the person said. They also would agree to explore one-time changes to the postseason, which would create the possibility of expanded playoffs this year.

They would consider multiple schedule options that would take into account player health and safety, economics and ballpark availability. Possible changes might include increased doubleheaders, extending the regular season into October and even November and using neutral sites with warm weather and roofs if needed for the postseason.

If less than a full season takes place, a player would receive only a proportional share of his salary.

Management would have the right to delay the amateur draft from its scheduled June 10 start and to shorten it from its current 40 rounds. Teams also could push back the start of the international amateur signing period, which usually is July 2.

As part of a deal, management would advance money that would be given to players on the lower end of the salary scale.

Opening day was scheduled for today but was pushed back to mid-May at the earliest due to the new coronavirus. A full service year usually is 172 days, and the season was set to be 186 days long. No matter how many games are played this season, a player on the active roster or injured list for the entire season would receive a full season of service.

Formats for the regular season and postseason will be decided later, when it becomes more clear when the season can start.

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