Major League Baseball is set to return. The MLB Players Association (MLBPA) informed the league Tuesday that players will comply with commissioner Rob Manfred's imposed outline for a 60-game 2020 season. Players are set report for another version of "spring" training on July 1, and the regular season will start either July 23 or 24, the league announced.
The two sides also finalized coronavirus health and safety protocols on Tuesday night. Here's part of the league's statement announcing MLB's return:
The health and safety of players and employees will remain MLB's foremost priorities in its return to play. MLB is working with a variety of public health experts, infectious disease specialists and technology providers on a comprehensive approach that aims to facilitate a safe return.
MLB has submitted a 60-game regular season schedule for review by the Players Association. The proposed schedule will largely feature divisional play, with the remaining portion of each Club's games against their opposite league's corresponding geographical division (i.e., East vs. East, Central vs. Central and West vs. West), in order to mitigate travel. The vast majority of Major League Clubs are expected to conduct training at the ballparks in their primary home cities.
Commissioner Manfred said: "Major League Baseball is thrilled to announce that the 2020 season is on the horizon. We have provided the Players Association with a schedule to play 60 games and are excited to provide our great fans with Baseball again soon."
MLB owners voted unanimously Monday night to have Manfred mandate a season. In a statement, Manfred had requested that the players respond by 5 p.m. ET so that the league could proceed with scheduling that imposed season. The league and players failed to reach a modified agreement for a 2020 season after weeks of negotiations and Manfred had the right to impose a schedule thanks to a deal the two sides struck in March.
The negotiations about a return-to-play plan stalled when it came to the length of the season and the financial compensation players would receive. The union's ability to file a grievance against the league, which could result in a substantial cash windfall, also became a matter of importance later in the talks.
Originally, the league had submitted a 67-page proposal outlining all the safety and testing protocols that would be installed this season. Little else had been leaked about negotiations concerning those regulations, though the two sides were suggested to be closer than not, with the league bending to players' requests for greater access to medical and training equipment.
It's worth noting that 40 MLB players and staff members reportedly tested positive for the novel coronavirus in recent days. MLB has also reportedly ordered all spring training sites to be closed and sanitized, and personnel must test negative for COVID-19 before being allowed to return.
Here are seven other things to know about the 2020 MLB season.
1. Format of regional schedule finalized
The exact schedule still needs to be made, but we know the structure of it. Every team will play 40 games against divisional foes (or 10 apiece) and 20 interleague games against the geographical equivalent. The Nationals, for example, will play all their games against NL and AL East teams.
2. Teams to submit 60-player rosters; will open with 30-player rosters
Predictably, things are going to move at a rapid pace. That includes teams submitting 60-player rosters for big-league spring training, with that list due to the league office by Sunday at 3 p.m. ET, according to The Athletic's Jayson Stark.
Stark added in a subsequent tweet that teams don't have to invite all 40 of their players on the 40-player roster to camp, but that those players must be paid regardless of their invite status.
Once the season begins, teams will be allowed to carry 30 players on their active roster. That number will drop to 28 after two weeks, then 26 after four weeks, according to MLB.com's Mark Feinsand.
3. Universal DH among rule changes
MLB will have at least two rule changes this season: a universal DH (yes, that means pitchers will no longer hit in the NL) and a baserunner placed on second at the start of every half-inning in extras. You can read more about that here.
5. Transaction freeze to end this week
On a related note, teams will be able to make transactions again beginning Friday at noon, per Stark. Between that and the subsequent 60-player submission deadline, it's possible that baseball sees its first trades in months before the end of the week.
5. Trade deadline will fall in August
Speaking of trades, MLB will have a trade deadline this year after all. Instead of falling on July 31, it'll come a month later, on August 31. Unlike in most years, that will represent the midway point of the season.
6. COVID-specific inactive list
According to ESPN's Jeff Passan, MLB will have a COVID-19-specific inactive list that players will be placed on if and when they test positive or show symptoms. There will be no set amount of time for the player to sit out, unlike the injured list, which requires hitters to miss at least 10 days.
7. Unsigned players head to Nashville?
Here's perhaps the most surprising element of the details revealed so far. Per Stark, MLB has talked with the city of Nashville about hosting two teams of unsigned players who would be paid to remain in shape as potential replacement players, should the need arise during the season. Teams would then have to pay to add these players. It's unclear exactly who would be involved and how it would work, but it's worth knowing that it's a possibility being discussed.