This week, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported that, per the negotiations between Major League Baseball (MLB) and the Players’ Association (MLBPA) the most likely outcome would be that major leaguers would be credited with the same service time this year that they earned in 2019. That could affect the New York Yankees if there is no baseball season in 2020, but first things first.
Talks are still ongoing between the MLB and the MLBPA, as a broad deal is being negotiated regarding several topics affected by the current coronavirus outbreak.
As opposed to delaying the playing time clock for a year if there is no season in 2020, the agreement would result in several players having already played their last game with their respective teams, including some Yankees.
For example, if that’s the case and if there is no season this year because of the COVID-19 outbreak, James Paxton, Masahiro Tanaka and DJ LeMahieu will all hit the free agent market this year.
At a wider scale, notable free agents in the same spot are Los Angeles Dodgers’ Mookie Betts, Cincinnati Reds’ Trevor Bauer, New York Mets’ Marcus Stroman, Houston Astros’ George Springer and Philadelphia Phillies’ JT Realmuto.
This wasn’t in the Yankees’ plans
That is a slap in the face for teams, as it would alter their plans. For example, the Yankees traded for Paxton in November of 2018 knowing that they would have him for two arbitration seasons before he hit free agency. If COVID-19 doesn’t let us watch baseball this year, the Yankees may end up with only one year of the Big Maple if they don’t hammer out a deal later down the road.
The Dodgers would have it even worse, since they traded useful outfielder Alex Verdugo, young catcher Connor Wong, and shortstop prospect Jeter Downs for a year of Betts - and David Price’s contract - and they may end up empty-handed if the worst-case scenario of no baseball in 2020 presents itself.
The Reds and the Mets had similar things in mind when they acquired Bauer and Stroman last year, as well.
Service time affects lots of things, including salary arbitration, the league’s pension plan, and, of course, a specific player’s status for free agency.
Of course, until we know for sure how many games will be in the 2020 season’s schedule, all of this is just speculation. MLB and MLBPA want to play, and they are looking for avenues to have as many games as possible.
The thing is that baseball won’t start for several more weeks as the league is respecting the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines of no public gatherings of 50 or more people for eight weeks. MLB announced that decision on March 16, which means that we won’t see the players take the field until mid-May, and some sort of abbreviated spring training should be played at that point. Players would need to get in shape.
However, the United States leapfrogged China on Thursday as the country with the highest total of coronavirus cases. While other countries, such as South Korea and China appear to have turned a corner (at least according to official info), the number of infections in America keeps growing, which is concerning.
For now, it is possible that the Yankees will bring one or two of LeMahieu, Paxton and Tanaka back in the future. It remains a possibility that all three end up staying for the long haul, but as things stand right now, it is also in the cards that they played their last game in pinstripes.