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Wednesday, March 25, 2020

MLB’s Sticky Service Time Situation

While the long-term financial implications of a pandemic for baseball players and owners might not be top of mind for many of us right now, discussions between players and owners on the myriad issues resulting from the season’s delay are taking place right now, and those discussions will have considerable effects on the sport’s future. Last week, among reports of the league potentially skipping June’s amateur draft, service time emerged as the most significant potential baseball issue resulting from COVID-19, particularly if the 2020 season is lost.

The problem is not a simple one, as players generally receive service time for being on a major league roster, with the resulting time accrued inching players closer to larger salaries in the form of arbitration and, eventually, free agency. If a partial season is played, some sort of service time pro-ration based on the actual number of days in a season seems likely. If the season goes 100 days instead of 186, starting every player who sees major league time with 86 days is another potential compromise. Likewise, salaries don’t seem to be a big issue, per Jon Heyman, with pro-ration also likely in that case. But what might happen should no season take place is more difficult to say.

Joel Sherman reported the MLBPA has proposed a full year of service time if players had a certain amount of service time accrued in 2019, with Ken Rosenthal reporting the time period was 60 days, essentially pushing forward service time for players who were on rosters for a significant portion of last season. MLB, for obvious reasons, does not want to provide such credit. Unfortunately, the framing of this issue has been somewhat problematic. In his tweets, Sherman said the following:

“Pretty much certain MLB would not give full service without games played/revenue taken in. Remember service time is an MLB lifeblood impacting arbitration, free agency, pension.

 

QLE Posted: March 25, 2020 at 01:05 AM | 17 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: service time

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   1. John Northey Posted: March 25, 2020 at 02:37 AM (#5933297)
Oh joy - picturing a strike right after the 2020 season is written off. Both sides in trouble and end up fighting non-stop.

I'd say full year service time for players on 26 man roster to be decided by April 1st. I see lots of prospects being left off (use up an option and send guys like Vlad Jr down and gain a year of control back) while vets get that year. Pay players the ML minimum for the year who are on that roster, contracts for 2020 shift to 2021 and beyond (ie: you have a 5 year deal starting in 2020, now it starts in 2021). Don't see it flying with either side, but might be the path they end up on as owners won't want to pay a $100-200 million payroll for 0 games, nor will players want to lose service time and all their pay. $14 million (roughly) for a 26 man minimum wage roster owners could live with, maybe a $26 million one instead ($1 mil per player). Full service time for just those on rosters players will fight against as then prospects are pushed back a year for arbitration/free agency but lots of guys on the margins would get on rosters for a year long payday and service time towards pensions that many of them will need.

Who knows what they will end up agreeing to - I seriously doubt we get any baseball until August or later (if the current idiotic thought process of getting everything going in 2 weeks happens it could start up in May and then close down by June for the rest of the year due to how bad this virus will get if that is followed through).
   2. Do Not Touch Fancy Pants Socially Distanced Handle Posted: March 25, 2020 at 05:09 AM (#5933302)
Interesting. IANAL, but just scanning the CBA fairly quickly, I don't really see that MLB has much of a case. Both the mechanisms for paying players, and for service time seem to be based on "regularly scheduled games." 'Scheduled' being the operative word. Doesn't say anything about actually 'played' games. The schedule is agreed upon the previous summer, so all the games by now are obviously already scheduled. Them being postponed doesn't really change that. So the dates for awarding salary and determining service time should be set in stone by now. That would definitely be my position from the point of view of the PA.
   3. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: March 25, 2020 at 12:29 PM (#5933400)
If there is no season but players get service time, should the Dodgers be able to somehow undo the Betts trade or receive some other sort of compensation?
   4. Ron J Posted: March 25, 2020 at 12:45 PM (#5933406)
#3 Pressed to guess I would expect MLB to roll back all off-season trades unless both sides agree assuming the no season but service time credited scenario.
   5. Kiko Sakata Posted: March 25, 2020 at 12:52 PM (#5933409)
Interesting. IANAL, but just scanning the CBA fairly quickly, I don't really see that MLB has much of a case. Both the mechanisms for paying players, and for service time seem to be based on "regularly scheduled games."


This seems obvious to me for paying somebody like Bryce Harper. It would depend on the specific wording of the contract, obviously, but I would think the default is, if somebody agreed to pay me $30 million a year for 13 years, I'd damn well expect my $30 million check this year.

The problem with "service time" though is that it's a function of being on a major-league roster and, as of this moment, there are no major-league rosters. So even if it's a fairly straightforward reading to say "everybody on a major-league roster as of April 1st gets credited a year of service time", for now, that would affect literally nobody. And if you set up a system of "okay, teams have to declare a major-league roster by March 31st", how do you prevent the Dodgers from leaving Mookie Betts off of theirs to try to push his free agency back a year?
   6. Ron J Posted: March 25, 2020 at 01:56 PM (#5933440)
#5 For what it's worth (probably not much as there are very different underlying considerations), Barcelona is in negotiations with their players to cut player wages sharply (up to 70%) while they're in lockdown. And the EPL is in discussion with their players. I can see the PA agreeing to a temporary salary relief for the teams in exchange for the service time. Particularly since arbitration holds no particular attraction to either side.
   7. Karl from NY Posted: March 25, 2020 at 02:40 PM (#5933453)
'Scheduled' being the operative word. Doesn't say anything about actually 'played' games.

Good point, but the intent of that is to cover a slight shortfall like if a few rainouts don't get made up. In this situation, I'd think that games intentionally cancelled weeks and months ahead of time would become unscheduled.

What if MLB takes a page from the Olympics and calls the games played in 2021 the "2020" season? Just postpone every game by 52 weeks.
   8. Greg Pope Posted: March 25, 2020 at 03:13 PM (#5933461)
What if MLB takes a page from the Olympics and calls the games played in 2021 the "2020" season? Just postpone every game by 52 weeks.

If there is no "championship season", then what we really have is a just a super long offseason. That's a logical argument the owners can make. By the same token, the players are all getting a year older. The PA is going to make that point.
   9. The Duke Posted: March 25, 2020 at 03:49 PM (#5933472)
The labor relations issue is massive. Hard to see how this gets resolved without a rancorous fight.
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 25, 2020 at 04:33 PM (#5933486)
No idea how this gets worked out, but if less than full service time credit is given, a player’s age should be a factor - older players have more to lose by waiting for arbitration or free agency, so they should be treated more generously.
   11. Sunday silence Posted: March 25, 2020 at 10:26 PM (#5933577)
older players have more to lose by waiting for arbitration or free agency, so they should be treated more generously.


wouldnt all players be at risk of losing a year? So why do older players lose more? Arguably someone in his prime might be at risk of losing "more".
   12. Sunday silence Posted: March 25, 2020 at 10:29 PM (#5933579)
The schedule is agreed upon the previous summer, so all the games by now are obviously already scheduled. Them being postponed doesn't really change that


They may be postponed at the present time, but at some pt. in the future they may be called off. What then? Does that change your argument?
   13. The Yankee Clapper Posted: March 25, 2020 at 11:27 PM (#5933592)
wouldnt all players be at risk of losing a year? So why do older players lose more? Arguably someone in his prime might be at risk of losing "more".
A player who makes the Majors at age 25 (or later) doesn’t have that many prime years left when he hits arbitration or free agency compared to a player that made the Big Leagues at 20. If players end up getting less than full service time, which may be possible if the season is entirely or largely canceled, I’d favor the older players getting more service time credit, since they’ll have less time to offset the lost season. The owners are even better positioned to absorb the service time loss, so ideally no player would be penalized, but I’m not sure that’s how it would be resolved.
   14. QLE Posted: March 26, 2020 at 12:39 AM (#5933607)
   15. Walt Davis Posted: March 26, 2020 at 05:04 AM (#5933630)
#14: Seems a reasonable solution. Good players with around 80-84 service days or less would get screwed in that they'd still have less than a full year. Super-2 might look a bit weird for a couple of years (might need a tweak). With maybe a few weird exceptions, all the pending FAs would become FAs which will not please the Dodgers so that might need to be redone. Obviously all the top prospects who would have started or greatly advanced their clocks this year are screwed over but that seems unavoidable.
   16. DL from MN Posted: March 26, 2020 at 09:21 AM (#5933652)
Do minor league options get exercised for players on the 40 but not on the 26 man roster?
   17. Ron J Posted: March 26, 2020 at 10:06 AM (#5933670)
#16 Interesting question. I'd think that anybody not getting credit for a full year's service time should be assumed to have had an option used.

But that will likely be something that gets dealt with in the bargaining to come.

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