Sigh. We are about one week into post-COVID America and it’s starting to really hit me how much it sucks baseball isn’t coming. In normal America, Gerrit Cole would be preparing to take the hill against the Orioles this Thursday. It sucks that this is not happening! To hold us over, check out the highlights from last year:
It feels like a century ago, doesn’t it? Oh well. What can we do. This is the right move for a host of reasons – as much as it pains me to say, there are more important things out there than the Yankees! – but I’m still going to whine about it. Next week we’ll have more content up on the site now that this is becoming the new normal. Took some time to adjust.
In the meantime…mailbag! Three good questions in today’s post. As always, please reach out to us at viewsfrom314 [at] gmail [dot] com with your questions, as we’ll continue to answer them amid all this craziness.
Manuel Asks: The last work stoppage in the MLB was almost 25 years ago, and the free agent landscape was a very different world back then. How could this year’s stoppage in play (either partial or complete) impact free agency? Like, Mookie and Kluber will still get paid…that’s easy. But what about guys who were playing for a their life this season? Also, how about contract year Yankees? DJ jumps to mind…
This is a real problem and it is not one that will be easily solved. Let’s start with the basics. This is a basic question of service time, which is how free agency eligibility is determined. A player reaches free agency after accruing 6 years of service time, with a year being 172 days of service time. As you can imagine, this is a thorny issue amid the shutdown – and it is one that will likely be a fierce battle between the union and management.
In fact, it already is: a report earlier this week from Ken Rosenthal in The Athletic (subs req’d) revealed that service time is ” most contentious of the issues under discussion.” This all seems right to me. The union, as it should, will be pushing for a relaxation of these rules – especially in the event of a complete cancellation of the season. Management will resist this, as it should.
Let’s travel across the coast for an easy thought experiment to see why this is such an issue. When the Dodgers traded for Mookie Betts, they did so under the assumption that he would actually play for them. That’s obvious! But say the season doesn’t happen and service time is accrued anyway. Betts will reach free agency without ever stepping between the lines for the Dodgers, who gave up a package to acquire him. Unfair to the Dodgers, of course. So what happens if he has to stay another year? That’s unfair to Betts, too, who wants to cash in on his huge payday that he has earned over the last several years.
It’s a thorny situation to say the least. It will not be easily resolved. For the Yankees, DJ is the obvious person, but it also impacts Paxton and even Judge. The big fella is already hitting free agency late in his career, remember. This could make it even later. This outbreak will have downstream impacts for years to come. It is going to be fascinating to see how it all gets handled.
Dan Asks: Do you think that games being missed due to the coronavirus situations lessens the chances of a strike or lock out after the CBA expires? Which side is more likely to move due to the huge missed revenue in 2020?
Unfortunately, I don’t. As I highlighted above, this outbreak is exposing pre-existing fault lines, much like it is across our political, medical, and economic systems. We’ve all known for some time now that service time is a contentious issue. Now, though, it’s really at the forefront of everyone’s minds. We could go on and on. Both sides are going to want to get theirs and that makes sense. That’s how these things go.
The lost revenue will further entrench both sides into their positions. At least for the time being. Teams are not paying players in the shutdown, remember, thanks to the national emergency declaration. Players are not poor by any means, of course, but no salary is no salary. They’ll be feeling the squeeze and will likely be more motivated than ever to right the economic ship in baseball.
Teams, too, will feel the hit. I know the teams are all fabulously wealthy and all but there’s no use pretending this won’t be a massive, massive financial blow. They, too, will be motivated to get things back working in their favor. See the problem? (It’s also worth pointing out that ownership is significantly wealthier than the players. The owners are better positioned to handle future labor strife, so even this favors the owners.)
On the other hand…there is more time to work this stuff out now. Maybe the shutdown will help get some of these issues across the finish line before the CBA expires. I am doubtful, though. But who knows? I really want to be wrong here and very well might be. All I know is that from my vantage point, there are serious pre-existing issues here and this new wrinkle exacerbates them all. Fun times to be a baseball fan.
Asher Asks: In reading about the new NFL CBA, my understanding is that benefits don’t factor into the salary cap. Why does MLB factor them in? It seems to limit teams’ spending when trying to avoid the luxury tax.
My last few answers are wordy, so I’m going to keep this one short. You’re right, Asher. The reason is to limit teams spending. Remember what I said about a ton of pre-existing issues?
Let’s end on a happier note, though. Here is a fun video: