MLB has offered to award service time to players even in the event of a canceled 2020 season, which impacts Francisco Lindor and the Cleveland Indians.
Depending on how things unfold in America and across the globe in the coming weeks and months, there is a possibility that Francisco Lindor will only play one more year with the Cleveland Indians, as opposed to two.
MLB owners have reportedly relaxed their stance on service-time technicalities in the event no baseball is played in 2020. For anyone unfamiliar with the issue at hand, it’s self-explanatory: Owners understandably aren’t thrilled with the idea of losing an entire year’s worth of control over Player A if the season is canceled.
By the same token, it’s not Player A’s fault a real-life sci-fi disaster novel broke out three weeks before the season was supposed to start. Why should he have to wait an extra year to reach free agency due to circumstances totally out of his control?
Both sides have completely valid points, though it’s far more difficult for the billionaire owners to paint themselves in a sympathetic light. There’s also the matter of the current collective bargaining agreement, which expires in December 2021 regardless of anything going on in present day. The league can ill-afford to provoke the players’ union now, in the midst of a global crisis, if it wants the next CBA negotiations to be the least bit civil in the winter of 2021.
Per Joel Sherman of the New York Post, the league’s latest compromise on this front is to offer players the same level of service time they earned in 2019 if no games are played in 2020. Among the star players for whom service time is something of a huge deal are Lindor, Kris Bryant, and Mookie Betts.
Sherman effectively outlines the league’s thought process behind the compromise:
Initially, MLB was insistent that without games — and, thus, without revenue — it would not give service time to players. But it relented because: 1) MLB believes it is bad luck to be publicly squabbling over dollars with the country in such financial upheaval, 2) it is hopeful the doomsday scenario of no games does not play out and 3) if no games are played in 2020, it might not be as advantageous to be a free agent or arbitration eligible next offseason with teams facing greater financial issues.
Chronologically speaking, this scenario does not accelerate Lindor’s path to a long-term contract with a team outside of Cleveland. But for the Indians, the number of opportunities to win a championship with Lindor in town would be cut in half.
The key takeaway in Sherman’s report is that the league evidently believes there will be something closely resembling an actual baseball season in 2020, which would render its offer on service time inconsequential. As long as games are played and a champion is crowned, service time is not a factor.
Ideally, that’s how things will play out. Not just for the Indians, but for the baseball community as a whole.