A's Semien One of the Beneficiaries of New Pact Between Players and Owners

John Hickey

The deal between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association that is expected to be ratified by club owners Friday morning seems on the surface to have both sides winning a bit and both sides losing a bit.

That’s the way it should be in general in a contract negation, and that’s the way it should be particularly now. Neither side wants to be seen as the petulant rich, trying to divvy up billions of dollars with the country and the world beset by the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic and economic firestorms.

There are some who are going to find the deal a little soothing. One of those is A’s shortstop Marcus Semien, the No. 3 finisher in the American League MVP race last year. He’s due to be a free agent at the end of the 2020 season, and the loss of the season to cancellation could have thrown his future into chaos.

According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who broke the story late Thursday, players won’t lose their guarantee to be free agents, even if no games are played this year. Even in the event of a season-long cancellation, players will receive full credit for service time in 2020, which goes to determinations of salary arbitration eligibility, free agency eligibility and pension qualification.

That’s not to say that Semien, who is the A’s player representative, had that at the top of his priorities as players and owners tried to negotiate with the coronavirus pandemic looming in the background. He would have gotten to free agency eventually.

“It’s a concern for everybody to get their service times to get to the next class” of arbitration eligibility or free agency, Semien told the San Francisco Chronicle this week.

According to Passan, the negotiations reached their conclusion after nearly two weeks of negotiations that not only involved players and owners but agents, club executives, union officials and commissioner’s office staff. A conference call with more than six dozen players Thursday night led the union to accept the deal. The owners were scheduled to vote Friday morning.

And while the financial bits and pieces are in place, the negotiations established a path toward deciding how baseball will go forward amid COVID-19.

The general plan is to play as many games as possible, even while conceding that getting in a full 162 games is likely not possible. There has been talk about returning to a second spring training sometime in May and starting games as early as June, even if that means playing in front no fans for a while. Both sides seem willing to extend the regular season into October, adding doubleheaders to the schedule.

Because of problematic weather in late October or November, the postseason could be played in neutral sites for the first time.

The union has agreed not to sue the league for full salaries in the event that the 2020 season doesn’t take place, and the owners will advance the players $170 million in April and May, most of it going to those players with guaranteed contracts.

If games are played, the money advanced will count against final salaries.

A freeze on all transactions is expected to go into effect when the owners make the deal official, banning teams from signing free agents, making trades and making roster moves.  

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