Major League Baseball and the players’ union finalized the deal Tuesday to get teams back on the field. So …
What happens now?
The players have agreed to report to training camp by next Wednesday, July 1, and prepare for a 60-game season that will begin on July 23 or 24 and end on Sept. 27. Teams will train at their home parks, though the Blue Jays may have to relocate for now due to a mandatory 14-day quarantine upon entering Canada.
Will the playoffs be expanded?
No. Still 10 teams. That could change if players and owners continue to talk over the next month.
What will the schedule look like?
To limit travel, teams will play 40 games against teams in their division and 20 against teams in the similar division of the opposite league. That means the Twins will play some or all of the National League Central teams (Cubs, Cardinals, Brewers, Reds, Pirates) in addition to the Royals, White Sox, Tigers and Indians. The schedule has been sent to the MLB Players Association for approval.
How much will players be paid?
The players remained united on this point during negotiations: They will earn 1/162nd of their salaries for every game played, a total of 37 percent of full salary if the entire 60-game season is played. For instance, Josh Donaldson, whose $18 million salary is the Twins’ highest in 2020, will earn $6.67 million during the season, while mini-mum-salary pitcher Randy Dobnak gets about $211,000.
Most veterans with guaranteed contracts were advanced $286,500 during April and May which must be paid back. For Tyler Duffey, set to earn $444,444 of his $1.2 million contract in his first season of arbitration eligibility, it means he has already received nearly two-thirds of his pay before the season even starts.
How many players will each team have?
Each team can bring 60 players to camp, and 30 will make the Opening Day roster. Active rosters will be reduced to 28 after two weeks and 26 after four weeks. Players not on the active roster will be put on a “taxi squad,” and paid to remain in the area and continue to work out in case they are needed. Three taxi squad players can travel on road trips.
Can teams still make trades?
Yes, beginning Friday when the transaction freeze is lifted. There will be an Aug. 31 trade deadline as well.
What rules are being changed?
Designated hitters will be used in all games. In order to prevent unusually long games, extra innings will start with a runner on second base, which is a minor league rule. In addition, the three-batter minimum rule for relief pitchers will take effect as scheduled. And players will not be allowed to socialize or come within six feet of players on the opposite team except during play.
Will there be fans?
Probably none when the season starts. Teams may be allowed to sell tickets for some re-duced-capacity, socially-distanced configuration once local authorities allow gatherings larger than 50 people, but that will be determined later.
Does Michael Pineda still have to serve his PED suspension?
Under the rules agreed to in March, yes. Pineda missed the final 21 games of the 2019 season after testing positive for a banned diuretic, and has 39 games remaining on his 60-game suspension. Unless owners and players negotiate a change to those rules, Pineda will become eligible to be activated around Labor Day and will be available in the playoffs, too.
Without minor league baseball, however, the veteran righthander won’t be able to prepare for his return with live games, which could cause the Twins to ease him back slowly, perhaps even in relief. Pineda signed a two-year, $20 million contract in December to return to Minnesota, but the pandemic and unpaid suspension have cost him nearly half that sum. He will earn a bit less than $1.3 million for 2020.
Will all the Twins play?
That remains to be seen. The health and safety protocols allow players to opt out of the season, with pay and service time, if they are deemed to be at high risk because of the coronavirus, say for asthma or other medical conditions, or are living with a family member who is at high risk. Also, players can choose not to play for their own reasons (though without pay), and it’s likely that some pitchers around the league might deem rushing to prepare their pitching arm for a two-month season to be too great a risk.
But the time off also made the Twins, like most teams, healthier than they were in March. Byron Buxton has definitely recovered from his offseason labrum surgery and should be a full participant. And righthander Rich Hill, who signed with the Twins last winter while rehabbing from elbow surgery, had targeted a July debut with his new team. He could compete for a rotation spot right away.
Why did the players reject a plan yesterday and why would they accept this plan?
Basically, they still have the right to file a grievance — saying the league did not follow through on its contractual promise to try to play as many games as possible — that could net them millions of dollars.