Kevin Acee: How Padres, other teams will be affected by deal between MLB players, owners

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SAN DIEGO — The Padres will have paid Garrett Richards a little more than $7 million to rehab his elbow and pitch 8 2/3 innings over two seasons.

Fernando Tatis Jr. will have played 84 games and have two seasons of service time.

Those are just a couple of the peculiar ramifications for the Padres and other teams should the 2020 season be wiped out due to the novel coronavirus.

Most significantly, a deal struck Thursday between Major League Baseball’s owners and players guarantees service time for 2020 equivalent to what a player earned in 2019 in the event MLB is unable to play a shortened season. It also gave the players a pay advance and assured them full service time and prorated salaries in the event of a shortened season.

It was an imperfect deal for an incredible and unprecedented time. The players got some money now and the guarantee of the right to receive future earnings on schedule. Team owners limited the amount of money they will pay this season and avoided the possibility players could be awarded contracts in an arbitration setting, as the agreement prevents players from suing owners for their full salaries.

Essentially, the outcome of what was most certainly a compromise is that both sides at least have an idea what might happen now.

The deal was a big first step as the sides work toward what they hope will be a season of some sort. Without this foundation, discussions of the parameters of a shortened season were useless. Schedule talk remains ongoing but in flux, as the timeline for control of the pandemic is uncertain.

The give and take of negotiations that lasted almost two weeks revolved around service time, because that is the currency by which players achieve actual currency.

A player is awarded service time for every day during a season he spends on the active roster or injured list. After three years of service time (sometimes after two), a player’s salary has the potential for exponential growth when he enters his arbitration years. After six years of service time, a player is eligible for the big money available as a free agent.

Industry sources confirmed aspects of multiple reports that the deal included a provision that players with guaranteed contracts for 2020 will receive an upfront payment of a maximum of $150,000. Depending on the structure of individual contracts, players with non-guaranteed deals will reportedly receive between $15,000 to $60,000. The MLB Players Association will determine the amount each player on every 40-man roster receives.

That money — a total of $170 million — is to be paid over the next two months and would not be repaid in the event the season is canceled.

While everyone involved stresses the unknown, most in baseball believe the earliest the season could start would be June. That would come after a period of training began in mid-May. Others are all but certain the season won’t start before July. Whenever it begins — if it begins — the consensus is that games would continue through October with an altered and expanded postseason format lasting into late November.

It is expected rosters will be expanded from 26 players to 29, at least in the early going of a shortened season, as there will be a shortened lead-up time before the season starts and then doubleheaders and more frequent games will likely be a feature of a revised schedule.

The deal included an agreement between the sides that games would not resume until it was safe for mass gatherings and there are no travel restrictions. Sources said the sides could ultimately decide to play in empty stadiums for a short time, as baseball officials said every conceivable idea is the table.

It is also still possible that, given the varying impact of COVID-19 in different regions, at least some teams could begin the season playing home games at neutral sites, perhaps at their spring training complexes or another team’s ballpark.

However, information from multiple sources indicates about a third of teams’ revenue comes from tickets and concessions. While there is also a significant amount of money tied to local and national television contracts, that revenue (without gate receipts) is not enough to cover player salaries. Thus, as “devastating” as not playing a season would be, one source said teams would be better off not having a season than playing an entire schedule without fans.

And while teams won’t be fulfilling their expected full payroll obligations — paying about 4% of the approximately $4 billion they normally would have if the season is canceled — owners are losing money with every game not played. Those losses are upwards of $1 million per home game in ticket and concession revenue, plus the sponsorship and TV monies.

Teams have not announced refund or exchange policies but plan to do so soon, according to one source. Teams are also preparing for the possibility of staffing cuts at some point, perhaps in May if there remains uncertainty about the start of the season.

Thursday’s deal also included a provision for MLB to shorten the 2020 amateur draft from the usual 40 rounds to as little as five rounds. Bonuses to drafted players will stay at the 2019 level and be paid in installments over three years. The draft will be postponed from June 10-12 to a to-be-determined date in July, according to ESPN.

The period to sign international players has been delayed from July 2 to an indefinite period that could be as late as the start of 2021.

The ripples from COVID-19’s effect on baseball will be felt for years.

If there is no season, a number of teams risk losing veteran stars without them having played out their contracts. That includes Dodgers outfielder Mookie Betts (who in that doomsday scenario would not have played a single game for L.A.), Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer, Phillies catcher J.T. Realmuto and A’s shortstop Marcus Semien.

However, since reduced revenues likely will lead to lower salaries being awarded in free agency in 2021, those players might also be inclined to remain with their teams on a one-year deal in order to possibly realize a bigger payday in ’22.

Other than Richards and closer Kirby Yates (who led MLB with 41 saves last season) being eligible for free agency after 2020, it is the status of young players that will most affect the Padres.

Regardless of whether there is a season, Tatis will be a year away from arbitration after 2020. Due to make $591,800 this year, a strong showing this season (if it happens) and/or ’21 could put him in position to earn five to 20 times that amount in ’22. Practically since the end of a spectacular rookie season abbreviated by injury, the Padres have planned to broach a long-term contract with the 21-year-old, though those efforts would seemingly be complicated by current circumstances.

Pitcher Chris Paddack, who made 26 starts and ranked among the league leaders in some key categories in his rookie season, would also be a year closer to arbitration.

The imperiled minor league season also has a great potential to stunt the development of young players, many of whom the Padres are counting on in their plans for future success.


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