Major League Baseball teams are facing a shortened 2020 season and many lost or diminished revenue streams, including playing all or at least most of the season without fans in attendance. As such, a Thursday report from ESPN's Buster Olney shouldn't be much of a surprise.
Olney says at least one MLB ownership group has already told its front office to reduce its payroll for the 2021 season. More teams will almost certainly follow suit.
MLB league-wide attendance last season was 68.5 million, and the average ticket price is $53. In addition to losing out on ticket sales, teams won't be able to rely on fans for concession stand, parking and in-stadium merchandise sales this year.
To be clear, that's not even close to the only way teams make money. MLB revenue was $10.7 billion in 2019, thanks in part to its massive TV deal.
But the league and its owners are going to collectively take a financial hit after the coronavirus shutdown.
Now, let's be clear: The owners can afford it. After all, everyone else is taking financial hits. Still, owners won't mind an extra reason to tighten their pursestrings.
As Olney mentioned, teams can't get out of the long-term contracts, and pre-arbitration players making around the league minimum won't be affected. Who does that leave? The arbitration players and free agents. Generally speaking, the players in their third through sixth years of service time.
The best guess here is we'll see a higher number of non-tenders this winter, sending players to free agency early. Those same players could end up being offered much less than they would have made under the arbitration system. This could lead more player movement before 2021 than we would have seen with a full and normal 2020 season.
Remember, this is all playing out with the current collective bargaining agreement set to expire after the 2021 season.