As you’ve probably seen, Major League Baseball has at least been discussing what’s being called “The Arizona plan” where the idea would be that all of the teams converge in the greater Phoenix area to play games at Chase Field and the various spring training facilities. The teams would basically either spend all of their time either at the hotel or at the ballpark – otherwise they’d remain in isolation from the public.
While there are so many things with that plan that make it tough to see happening as we stand right now, it is a plan that could happen in the future if we get where we hope to be. But if Major League teams are all heading to one city to try and play a season, that means that they don’t believe having teams travel city to city is a viable plan. And that means that even if we do get that iteration of baseball, we aren’t going to be getting any minor league baseball until it’s deemed safe to have people gather on buses and drive across the country and stay in random hotels and eat at random places (among so many other things).
With the Arizona plan, one idea that was floated out there is that there could be anywhere from 35-50 players “on the team”, though not everyone would be active. Essentially there’s be the actual roster, that’s active, and then a handful of guys who are “minor leaguers” who work out, practice, and train with the team who are there to fill in if and when someone is injured or gets sick. Those guys would be needed because in this plan, there’s not a Double-A or Triple-A season happening and you can’t just call up Frank Reliever or Tom Outfielder who hasn’t played since spring training was shut down in mid-March and say “hop on a flight from Zebulon, North Carolina and get to Phoenix” and have that guy ready to step in.
This brings up a lot of questions. In the Major Leagues the players association negotiated that even if no season at all is played in 2020, players will accrue the same amount of service time in 2020 at the Major League level that they had gotten in the 2019 season. Will the same thing apply for minor league players? And if so, do guys drafted in 2019 get a full season of service time for 2020 since they would have? Or would they get just 2 months like they did in 2019, thus making it an entire extra year before they would reach minor league free agency?
Does a season not happening change when guys would become Rule 5 eligible? It may not matter, though. If there’s no minor league season this year, are teams really going to go out and pick up players they haven’t seen play in 15 months? The teams themselves are going to just make their decisions on who to protect based on what happened in 2019 and their belief in the future potential of guys. But when it comes to who is draftable after that, it’s tough to imagine too many selections in that scenario. And then the eligibility issues, if they exist, would be addressed in the CBA that would be negotiated before the next Rule 5 draft. Hopefully the minor league free agency situation would also be addressed in there, too. But that may not help the guys who would have been able to reach free agency following the 2020 season if they don’t get any credit for the year.
There are a lot of questions that have no real answers yet. And many of them aren’t ones that I’ve even thought about at this point, or begun to address. But these were the ones on my mind right now and it seemed like something good to write about. With regards to rules – am I overlooking something very obvious for a situation where there is not a minor league season? Not so much “teams might not survive” or “some players may just have to walk away on their career because they’ve got to eat” kind of stuff – but rules that could change things along the way.