In what has been a very backwards year for everyone, baseball person or not, the impact of the ongoing coronavirus pandemic can wreak havoc on the sport of baseball for the next few years… at least. With effectively every team reporting major losses after the absence of fans for the entirety of the season, there has been an overt effort to right the financial ship by cutting ties with bigger contracts, whether by trade, release, or non-tender. It’s also, unsurprisingly, made its mark on the free agent pool for this offseason. The market for some players has been slow developing, as teams have been reluctant to offer up too much money, too soon. Other players accepted their qualifying offers, which has hardly ever been the case. With the uncertainty of the market, players like Marcus Stroman and Kevin Gausman wanted to play the safety card and take the money that was readily available for them. Let’s breakdown some of the areas that are most affected by the pandemic.
Arguably the only boon of this entire situation is that the trade market is booming, with smaller market teams trying to trade their star players before they reach free agency, there is potential for real action and movement this winter. Even the Cubs might be sellers, as there have been indications that they want to shed some money, with Kyle Schwarber already being non-tendered. Kris Bryant could be on the move, as his name has been heavily involved in trade circles, with the Nationals being a potential player. Lest we forget the likes of Francisco Lindor, Nolan Arenado, and potentially even Trevor Story.
The trade market has the potential to be just as, if not more, exciting as the free agent market, with teams reluctant to shell out the big dollars as of now. Speaking of which…
Free Agency 2020
You know things have gotten bad when even the Yankees are hesitant to spend money. For what it’s worth, the Yankees played hard to get with their last marquee free agent second baseman, which resulted in them losing him. But the early signs have not been encouraging for the players looking for money. Make no mistake of it, Trevor Bauer, JT Realmuto, George Springer, and DJ LeMahieu (eventually) will get paid handsomely, regardless of how long it takes.
It’s the “in between” free agents, so to speak, that will feel the most heat. If teams feel like the level of production on the free agent market doesn’t outweigh that of what is in their respective systems, it can turn out to be a dry winter. To this point, the Royals have shockingly been the most active player in free agency, nabbing southpaw Mike Minor and the switch hitting veteran Carlos Santana. In brighter news for players, however, as of the writing of this article, James McCann is closing in on what is expected to be a four-year deal with the Mets. This can potentially set the pace for the rest of the free agent hitters out there.
2021 and Beyond
With the prospect of fans being in stadiums at full capacity in the near future looking shaky at best, we could very easily be in this same position again come the offseason of 2021. According to healthcare experts, the earliest we might return to a relative normal, this including the return of fans to ballparks, is July of 2021. Even still, that may depend on what restrictions are placed at the state level. So, if teams can’t have fans back in the stadium for much, if any, of next season, are we going to run into the same issue again next winter? The answer, which can be said with no level of certainty, is hopefully no. Another important development is that the Collective Bargaining Agreement between the MLB and the Player’s Association expires in December of next year. I cannot provide much more than speculation, but how much of an impact do the 2020 and 2021 seasons have on what gets changed in the CBA? These are things to considering when evaluating the near future of this league.
All in all, it would be an understatement to say the coronavirus pandemic impacted our lives in a way that we cannot put into real words. Everything we know and love got put into an abrupt halt back in March. And although some of those things, including sports, have come back in some way, the repercussions of these past 9 months and the next 12 months to come are certainly going to shift a lot in the game of baseball. Only time will tell.