As the coronavirus cases exceeded 155,000 in the U.S. as of Monday, it has become almost impossible for Major League Baseball (MLB) to declare a definite start date of the 2020 regular season. With the opening day pushed back from the scheduled on last Friday, the coronavirus outbreak is likely to deal a significant blow to players as well with salary reduction and frozen free-agent market.
According to ESPN on Sunday, the MLB and the players’ union have agreed to reduce the amount of games (162 per team) in this year’s regular season. A shortened season means a reduced salary for players. Back in 1995, the MLB shortened the number of games to 144 following a strike by the players’ union. Player salaries were reduced by 11.1 percent as well because the games were lost due to a strike. The number of games for the 2020 regular season is being discussed between 81 and 144, according to the U.S. media.
The MLB and the players’ union agreed on three conditions with respect to the opening of the 2020 season although they have not declared a definite start date. The conditions include: There are no bans on mass gatherings; There are no travel restrictions between the U.S. and Canada; Medical experts determine that there would be no health risks for players, staff or fans.
Clubs will have to tighten their belt as well because a shortened season means reduced revenue from admission fees, broadcasting rights, and advertisement. Unlike players who have a long-term contract, 2020 free agents may suffer a great loss. “The average salary of MLB players has been on the decline for the past three years. Big clubs are handing out mega deals every year but they are tightening their belt on underperforming players,” said Song Jae-woo, a commentator for MBC Sports Plus. “The salary gap between players could widen if clubs become financially strapped due to the shortened season.”