At this point, it seems like Major League Baseball and the Players Association are too close to not come to an agreement. After months of head-butting, there are still no definitive answers as to when, or if, a season will begin.
With that in mind, let’s take a look at the most recent discussions between the two sides and other news from around the league this week.
Players Still Mulling Over Owners’ Proposal
Just because the Players Association made a counterproposal to the most recent offer from the league doesn’t mean that the league’s offer couldn’t still be accepted. After the owners and MLB said no to the counterproposal, the players are still mulling over whether to accept the 60-game offer submitted last week.
In addition to the 60 games at a fully prorated price, the offer also called for an expansion of the playoffs to 16 teams and a universal designated hitter, among other things. According to Jon Heyman, it appears that the league is even offering to make some adjustments to the offer to sweeten the pot for the players.
For instance, if there is no season in 2020, the universal designated hitter and expanded playoffs would be taken off the table for 2021 (both considered prime bargaining chips for the players).
Basically, the owners are trying to show some good faith in the even that COVID-19 ends up canceling the season altogether. Still, while the players are still contemplating the offer, there is bitterness that a longer season has not been approved.
Especially with the recent outbreak of positive cases reported recently (five players tested positive in the Phillies camp alone, and the virus is believed to have affected over 10 teams in total), players are being pretty cautious in evaluating the offer.
While many presume that this is simply a fight between millionaires and billionaires, it is still the players who have to expose themselves to the possibilities of contracting the coronavirus while also being asked to give up some of their pay because of limited games.
Regardless, time is quickly running out to get a season going, and, all the while, the virus still looms as possibly the greatest threat to a lost 2020 season.
Hiatus A Blessing In Disguise
While no baseball has been a travesty, there has been a silver lining for some players. The extra time off has allowed some players to heal from ailments that would have otherwise derailed the early part of their seasons.
For instance, the Houston Astros’ Justin Verlander is throwing off a mound again. In an Instagram video, Verlander posted a bullpen session, one that has Astros’ fans excited about the prospects of his availability if a season resumes.
Verlander had been dealing with both a lat strain and a pulled groin, issues that were going to sideline him initially. Now, it appears that he may be able to ramp up if a season were to commence.
Last season, for the Astros, Verlander went 21-6 with a 2.58 ERA and 0.803 WHIP, good enough for an AL Cy Young Award. In 34 starts, he threw 223 innings and struck out 300. At 37, the Astros hope that this injury is just a blip as he is signed through the 2021 season.
Verlander isn’t the only one that could be ready for the season. According to the New York Post’s George A. King III, it appears that Yankees’ outfielder Aaron Hicks would be ready to play if a season is able to begin.
Hicks has been out due to Tommy John surgery but has been both hitting and throwing. In 2019, Hicks had just 221 at-bats, hitting .235/.325/.443 with 12 home runs, 36 runs batted in and 41 runs scored.
Russell Signs Overseas
While there may be no baseball being played stateside, one former MLB player is taking his talents over to Korea. Addison Russell, the former Chicago Cubs’ middle infielder, has signed to play with the Kiwoom Heroes in Korea.
According to Jeeho Yoo of Yonhap News, Russell will make approximately $530,000 to play this season. Russell’s MLB experience hit the skids after being suspended for domestic violence and has since been released by the Chicago Cubs (despite giving him another shot).
In 215 at-bats in 2019, Russell hit .237/.308/.391 with nine home runs, 23 runs batted in, and 25 runs scored. At just 26, Russell will try to keep his career alive overseas.