Danny Abriano, SNY.tv | Twitter |
While it is unclear when or if the 2020 MLB season will begin as the United States and rest of the world remains on various forms of lockdown amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league and Players' Association have agreed to a deal regarding how things will shake out if there is a shortened or canceled season.
According to multiple reports, the deal between MLB and the MLBPA focuses on how a shortened season will look (including the potential of an expanded playoff field), where games will be played (including the potential of playing at neutral sites and/or in front of no fans for a period of time), and how arbitration and free agency will be impacted if the season is shortened or canceled.
For all expected contenders, the possibility that the entire season could be lost is one they don't want to imagine.
For the Mets -- and most teams -- the biggest impact beyond the above will come from the decisions on arbitration and free agency.
According to Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, the league will grant service time to players in the event of a canceled or shortened season. The gist is any player who was originally eligible for free agency after the 2020 season will still be eligible if the season is canceled or shortened. Players who are arbitration-eligible will also have the 2020 season (or canceled season) count toward that year of eligibility.
There were monetary concessions made by both sides before the agreement was reached, Rosenthal noted.
When it comes to the Mets, the above means that no matter what happens, players such as Marcus Stroman, Rick Porcello, and Michael Wacha will be free agents after the 2020 season (or canceled season).
It also means that players like Noah Syndergaard, Michael Conforto, and Steven Matz (all in their second-to-last year of arbitration) will continue their march toward free agency after the 2021 season.
In a doomsday scenario where the season is canceled, it will mean the Mets traded prospects Anthony Kay and Simeon Woods Richardson for basically two months of Stroman. And that would be terrible luck.
But there are teams that could have it far worse than the Mets in the event of a canceled season. One of those teams is the Los Angeles Dodgers, who traded a relatively significant haul for pending free agent Mookie Betts, who might not play a single game for the Dodgers if the season is canceled and he signs elsewhere.
In addition to the free agent/arbitration considerations in the deal between the MLB and MLBPA, two other things could also have a big impact on the Mets.
The first is the potential of an expanded postseason field in 2020.
While the expanded postseason idea MLB floated before the coronavirus pandemic seemed pretty terrible, a one-off in 2020 where the postseason is expanded could allow the Mets an easier path to the playoffs as they battle their way through what is expected to be an incredibly tough NL East -- an extra Wild Card or two could allow for three or four NL East teams to slide into October (or November).
The second is the potential that teams whose home cities are most-impacted by the coronavirus pandemic could play their "home" games at neutral sites and/or in front of no fans for a period of time.
Aside from the Mets losing the comfort of playing home games close to where they live, they would also be losing the comfort of playing within the familiar dimensions of Citi Field and lose -- at least for a time -- any home field advantage the fans might provide to a team expecting to contend.