Major League Baseball hopes to offer a return to the game proposal to the MLB Players' Association within a week, as teams began encouraging players to prepare for a "spring" training that could begin in mid-June and a season that could begin. in early July, sources familiar with the discussions told ESPN.
While a significant number of obstacles remain and some industry leaders believe the June and July return dates are overly optimistic, approving ownership of a plan and discussing details with the union would mark two vital steps for baseball's return of a season that has so far delayed six weeks. The coronavirus pandemic.
General managers and managers of at least a dozen teams have contacted the players to suggest that they increase baseball activities, ESPN said who is familiar with the conversations – including executives, players and agents. Some teams suggested that players prepare for spring training that could start on June 10 and a season that would start on July 1, dates first publicly suggested by former player Trevor Plouffe. Other teams, sources said, are being more general in their schedules, understanding the complications that difficult dates can cause and wanting instead to induce players to stay in game form.
According to sources, dozens of players are training at team facilities across the country, and the possibility of conducting a three- or four-week spring training at team stadiums attracts many interested parties. After fueling ideas to quarantine all players in Arizona or use centers in three or five cities to play games, there is a time when the league tries to play stadiums, sources said.
The complications can be multiple, whether due to a coronavirus leak in a city or the added risk of travel, but logistical concerns are not as acute as they would be with building hubs. Three players' representatives, who are sending updates to the union's ranking and files, believe the union would be more receptive to this plan because players could spend half their games at home and with their families.
This does not mean that the league proposal for the players association is received with open arms. Owners pressured the league to ask players to cut wages because of crater revenues exacerbated by the fact that no fans are allowed in the stadiums after their return. In an agreement between the league and the union, players agree to receive a proportional share of their wages based on the games played, which the MLBPA argues that covers any reduction in wages that players must receive.
Possible obstacles go far beyond money.
Playing again in this environment represents a risk for players, who hope that it will be dissipated as much as possible in the league proposal. Several players contacted the union asking what would happen if they chose not to play in 2020 for fear of their health or the desire to remain with their families during the pandemic, sources told ESPN. In addition, a player asked a more direct question during a video call with Cleveland Indians players first reported by Athletic: What happens if we come back and a player is positive?
The league's answer to this and other questions is eagerly awaited by players whose sense of optimism has grown over the past week. At the same time, several officials and players expressed reservations about negotiating an agreement when the country reopens, fearing that, in early June, the mood for the game's return will not be as welcoming.
The unknown, the sources said, is part of the motivation to start the negotiation process within a week. The MLB not only needs the approval of owners and players to start a season, but also White House officials and senior health officials are waiting to be consulted and give their approval, sources said. MLB has already contacted federal and state authorities, seeking guidance as it maneuvers for a new opening day.
The look of the game and the season will be determined in any agreement between the league and the union. Several executives have suggested that up to 50 players will be available for use by teams and that they will have active lists of up to 30 players per game. The length of the season, which is expected to start in July, can range from 80 to 100 games.
Any deal should include contingency plans going forward, sources said. Some officials fear the so-called second wave of coronavirus cases that some health officials have predicted and believe that, instead of planning to play in late November, with an expanded playoff system, the MLB would be better suited to playing a shorter season than give the league a greater chance of avoiding possible complications.
The consequences of COVID-19 have not only erased much of the 2020 season, but have also left offices fearful of the immediate and long-term future. Scouting directors are waiting for the official word, but they told ESPN that they expect the MLB draft in June to be five rounds instead of the standard 40. Furthermore, although most teams have ensured that employees pay until the end In May, baseball's delay after July could precipitate a wave of leave and dismissal, according to sources.