On Thursday, public health imperatives relating to the spread of the coronavirus forced Major League Baseball to suspend spring training and institute at least a two-week delay to the start of the regular season.
These decisions leave many questions left to answer in the coming days, weeks and months.
Major-league teams are currently holding in place in Florida and Arizona and awaiting further direction. Major League Baseball and MLB Players' Association representatives are scheduled to meet this weekend to work out a plan, according to Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times (Twitter links).
In the meantime, White Sox GM Rick Hahn says MLB has temporarily paused player transactions, according to MLB.com’s Scott Merkin (via Twitter). The freeze will be in place through the weekend, at least.
This is certainly not the right moment for trades and waiver claims to be executed, so an immediate moratorium is all but certain. Presumably, a more formalized plan for dealing with roster matters will ultimately go into place. It’s obvious that some kind of exceptional measures will be needed.
Typically, this is a time of year when we begin to see a high volume of transactions. Many rate as minor in comparison to the high-profile signings and trades we focus on, but they mean quite a bit to the individual players involved.
To some extent, it’s not difficult to imagine a roster freeze from a logistical perspective. Dates for certain decisions can simply be pushed back. There may be some tricky bits to sort out, but they’re of relatively minor import.
The tougher questions relate to the potential for a lengthy stoppage. While the initial postponement of Opening Day covered two weeks, every indication is a longer delay will take place. For the time being, players have been asked to stay near spring facilities. Teams are taking varying approaches, with some holding limited workouts and others canceling player activities.
Managing this crisis will require MLB and the players' union to work together to ensure a fair outcome for all players. Minor-leaguers aren’t even compensated for time spent in spring training, so the loss of anticipated in-season earnings would be devastating.
And that’s just as true for the many workers around the country who rely upon ballgames to pay their bills.
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