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2021 MLB Questions

Ed Botti

So far this offseason we have all had a lot of suggestions for Mr. Cashman and his player personnel department. It’s always a lot of fun to spend other people’s money, and fans do it very well.

The big questions we have been opining about are the starting rotation, DJ LeMahieu, who plays shortstop and Gary Sanchez.

All valid and all covered to the nth degree. Only the Sanchez question has been answered.

If you read and remember my prediction that this off season is going to be very different due to the fact that all 30 teams collectively are projected to lose between $2.8 billion and $3 billion. An average of $97 million per team, while accruing a collective $8.3 billion in debt in 2020, what we are seeing unfold before our eyes should not be a surprise.

As I stated, Black Friday was going to be much different this year, and it has been so far.

Why is that?

For starters, every team has the same unanswered questions and concerns.

1. When will the 2021 MLB season start?

2. How many games will be played?

3. Will there be fans in attendance, if so how many?

4. What 2020 rules will survive in 2021?

Now that the MLB Winter Meetings are taking place, we should start to hear some answers to these vital questions. And when we do, we just may start to see some moves being made.

The players and owners have actually engaged in what might be considered superficial discussions so far this offseason. The players were waiting to select their new executive subcommittee members. These are the players that get very involved in the issues surrounding the collective bargaining agreement (CBA).

That has been done, and now they can start to get serious.

First on the agenda is what will a 2021 season actually look like?

The COVID – 19 impact has not waned just yet.

There is hope due to the many vaccines we are now hearing about, that a 2021 MLB season will in fact resemble a more traditional season. However, regardless of the schedule MLB released in July, a 162 game season with fans in attendance still seems like a long shot, at best, and that is a problem economically for the teams and the league.

Let’s keep hope alive, but the owners will not take investment risks, especially after all of them lost their shirts in 2020.

Still not decided are many important matters. Right off the bat they need to get together and decide on an Opening Day.

To do that, they need to figure out when spring training should start. Do they delay it this year? What happens if there is another wave of Covid and they have to send everyone home again?

What will the salary structures look like to 2021? Will the players get full pay, or some form of a prorated salary as they did in 2020? That was a very difficult mountain to climb in 2020, will the players be open to another year of it?

Looking at the logistics of a 2021 season brings a relevant point to the discussion, and that is the issue of home games for some teams.

To date, Canada still has not opened their borders to foreigners, or at least Americans. Prime Minister Trudeau has not made any public announcement yet on his plans. So what happens to the Blue Jays? Do they go back to Buffalo?

If there is a MiLB season it would seem that the Buffalo Stadium will have its Tenant back, so that probably does not work.

What about the teams that play in California and Seattle where more and more restrictions seem to get put into place on a daily basis?

Can you have a league where some states or cities allow fans, and others don’t? How do you agree on a revenue share, or do those teams simply relocate for 2021?

Let’s say for conversational sake the logistics are worked out and teams head off to spring training, which is what we all want.

When they get there are they playing 2020 baseball or do they go back to what we all have grown up playing and watching? Just a reminder, 2020 had some unique rule changes that have not been decided one way or the other for 2021 and beyond.

Is there now a DH in the National League? Not knowing the answer to this question impacts every NL team’s player personnel decision making process. In typical Rob Manfred fashion, teams were told to operate under the “assumption” that there will not be a universal DH in 2021. In other words, they have not made a decision yet. Making assumptions is never a good way to run a business, and this is just more lack of leadership from the top,

Do we start the 10th inning with a runner on second base? Let’s hope not, I thought it was a ridiculous rule from the start.

Do pitchers still have to face a minimum of 3 batters? That rule essentially makes the specialty relief pitcher obsolete, and changes in-game strategy.

Do they play 7 inning double headers?

What will the roster size be in 2021?

What playoff format do they use?

Based on the history of negotiations between the Owners and the MLBPA, it’s not going to be easy to settle these issues.

The Rule 5 draft is today, it will be interesting to see how that goes.

Next up on the MLB calendar is January 15, 2021 which marks the deadline for players and teams to exchange arbitration figures, and it kicks off the start of the international signing period.

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