Major League Baseball and the Player’s Association have reportedly agreed on a series of rules for the now-truncated 2020 season that would allow all players in the final year of their contracts to become free agents at the end of the year, even if no baseball is played.
That was part of a compromise on service time between the two sides, according to ESPN’s Jeff Passan.
The most important thing for the players: In the doomsday scenario of no 2020 season, they will get full service time, meaning Mookie Betts, Trevor Bauer, Marcus Stroman, J.T. Realmuto and others will be free agents in November regardless of whether games are played.— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) March 27, 2020
Obviously, when the Phillies traded their top prospect, Sixto Sanchez, and catching prospect Jorge Alfaro to the Marlins, they did so thinking they would have Realmuto’s services for two full seasons. Of course, the two full seasons are out the window, but in the event the 2020 season is cancelled, they will have only had Realmuto for one year.
This part of the deal is certainly a victory for players like Realmuto and Mookie Betts, and it hurts a team like the Dodgers, who traded away a number of top prospects in order to land the stud outfielder. It means players like Francisco Lindor and Kris Bryant will still be able to become free agents after the 2021 season as well.
But even though this part of the deal was a win for the players, the owners got something out of it, too.
For MLB the key was that it advanced $170M but owes nothing else if there is no season and MLBPA agreed not to sue for lost wages. MLB players make roughly $4B in total, so owners know they will pay none of that beyond the $170M without a season.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 27, 2020
If there is no season, that would be a huge windfall to the owners, a pile of cash that made the allowance of a full season of service time more palatable.
The clear solution to the problem, from the Phillies’ perspective, is to never let Realmuto reach free agency and sign him to a long-term contract extension as soon as possible. However, one of the other items of note is a transaction freeze throughout baseball until further notice.
One reason you saw teams optioning players in the past few days is because this agreement will put in place a transaction freeze until further notice. So no options, trades, signing players, etc.— Joel Sherman (@Joelsherman1) March 27, 2020
Now, does this include re-signing your own player to a contract extension? That’s unclear, but it would seem that any transaction is prohibited right now, including signing a player currently under contract to a new deal.
Regardless, as soon as baseball is open for business once again, signing Realmuto to an extension has to be job No. 1 for general manager Matt Klentak.