MLB, Union in Holding Pattern on How to Proceed Once Baseball Resumes

Officials from Major League Baseball and the players union met Friday and Saturday to discuss plans on how to move forward once play resumes, but they achieved little clarity due to the dynamic situation facing them. As Joel Sherman of the New York Post tweeted Sunday, the two sides “mainly discussed the most immediate items for workouts, player pay, etc.”

There were also “broad talks” about the schedule, which will have to be amended significantly once a start date is established. Rules about guaranteed off-days and travel distance might have to be suspended entirely, though a lot of that depends on how many games they try to make up. While there seems to be a universal belief around the league that May is an optimistic target for resumption, some team execs have publicly stated that the plan is still to play a full schedule.

Finding a way to squeeze in 162 games is highly implausible, but shortening the season — which they absolutely should do — means working out all kinds of agreements on pay and service time. Think about how many performance incentives are based on hitting certain benchmarks, many of which will be rendered moot by an abbreviated schedule. The service-time issue can be simplified to a percentage of the season, but you can bet that’s something the union will monitor closely.

Even if they come down from 162, the owners will likely want to play as many games as possible. That means more double-headers and fewer days off, which, especially when following a re-started spring training, is a recipe for greater injury frequency. Whether that means more acute or chronic maladies, probably both, more games on less rest doesn’t seem like a good idea.

As we’ve either said or assumed from the start, this is something with far too many unknowns to really work out in full at this point. In the meantime, MLB did send out a memo Saturday with instructions on how teams are to proceed when it comes to players and facilities. For example, non-roster players are supposed to head to their offseason homes “to the extent practical,” while those on the 40-man “must be permitted to remain” at their team’s facilities and will still receive their spring training allowances.

Teams are required to keep their facilities open and provide medical care to major league players, but MLB is discouraging even informal group workouts in favor of social distancing. We already knew that was the case at Sloan Park, where the Cubs are operating a “skeleton crew” of staff members as most of the players remain in Mesa through at least the end of the month.

We’re not likely to get more details on everything for a while yet, maybe several weeks, but CI will try to bring you whatever updates we can on both the Cubs and MLB in general.

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