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Although there is no set date for a return to baseball, Toronto Blue Jays President Mark Shapiro told local media members that he anticipates the need for four weeks of exhibition games and workouts to get players into shape to begin the 2020 MLB season.
With baseball suspended until at least mid-May, Shapiro’s recommendation means that teams need to begin their preparations no later than April 15th. As the coronavirus outbreak continues to affect the United States in dangerous ways, the notion that baseball can return in three weeks without intense quarantining and games without fans appears to be a difficult accomplishment.
“I do think that we’re, by and large, waiting for some sort of flattening of the curve and recognition that we have done our best to limit the strain on the health care system and the economic system,” Shapiro said.
“Until that time, the exact outcome and impact on our schedule, and all of the corresponding business that cascades off that, really can’t be determined. It certainly looks like we are not dealing with days and likely not weeks, but closer to months.”
Shapiro told the media that no Blue Jays, major or minor leaguers, have contracted the coronavirus.
MLB players have mostly returned home to await instructions from MLB, but three Blue Jays, South Korean pitcher Hyun-Jin Ryu, Japanese pitcher Shun Yamaguchi and Dominican Republic-native Rafael Dolis remain at the team’s training facility in Dunedin, Florida.
Shapiro noted that all three players have no established home in the lower 48 states and will need to stay at the team’s spring training facility until a resolution to the 2020 season is decided by Major League Baseball.
Over 30 Blue Jays minor leaguers and four staff members are housing in a Dunedin hotel. Eighteen of the players from Venezuela cannot go back home due to political strife and unrest in the nation.
Shapiro, speaking from his home where he and his family are distancing from others, also touched on the negotiations between the MLB and MLB Players Association. The two parties are negotiating a plan to help major and minor league players with advanced salaries and determine how service time is accrued during the suspended season.
In a recent article from The Athletic by Ken Rosenthal, one of the sticking points between the two sides is how they would deal with a canceled 2020 season.
For owners, keeping the players’ service time reduced helps minimize the salary of star players and lengthens the time before a major leaguer can experience free agency. In most player agents’ minds, service time is equivalent to property rights and with the current length of six years before free agency, any disruption of that timeline due to a canceled season costs the player untold millions of dollars.
Shapiro told the media that even if the nation experiences a reduction in coronavirus infections and baseball is slated to return by Commissioner Rob Manfred, the two sides would first have to iron out the details of how the season will be treated with these contractual details before a first pitch can be thrown to open the 2020 campaign.
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