Must players and management agree on a start date to the MLB season?

SCOTTSDALE – Perhaps a hidden, but important issue in the current dialogue of getting baseball to resume play, lays in the agreement between players and management.

When an “emergency” is declared, as during this time, provisions in the agreement can be suspended. That is, if there are no games, players are not paid. To this point, that has not affected minor league players. That’s because their season does not begin until April 9 and that is the date players, at that level, will be paid.

A more pressing issue appears to be the actual resumption of play. Right now, major league baseball suspended operations indefinitely. At the same time, most agree there will be a recovery period leading up to the commencement of games. In the light of the basic agreement, is the decision to resume play solely a management one or do players have to sign off on a start date to the season?

“I have no idea,” was the response from Mike Hazen, the Arizona Diamondbacks general manager during a conference call Wednesday afternoon with reporters. “Once this is declared over, I don’t know how much time will be needed to begin games. There are considerations for starting pitchers, and how many at-bats will position players require. That will be considered but for right now, we’re solely concerned with the health and safety of our payers.”

The assumption is players will take a reasonable time to prepare and that criteria will likely be established by management. With the desire to get back on the baseball diamond as quickly as possible, there would be little disagreement on any start date.

To keep skills sharp, small groups of players have been working at Salt River, the Diamondbacks training facility. As of Wednesday, a directive was ordered that Salt River will close indefinitely.

As a result, the Diamondbacks moved their operations to Chase Field and opened an indoor batting cage, the bullpens, weight room and medical operations in the team’s home field.

“This is to provide an avenue to players who wish to take advantage,” Hazen added. “We’ve opened Chase to any player on the 40-man roster. Right now, we’re discussing how to make facilities open to minor league players.”

The same precautions, such as deep cleaning and disinfectant used at Salt River, will be employed at Chase The aim is keep players in small groups and the staff at a minimum.

Over the landscape of major league baseball, particular issues arose. Questions of the June draft of amateur players, transactions during this period of inactivity, the July 31 trade deadline and determination of players’ service years remain outstanding.

“All the conversations I have had with general managers in the game have been about the health and safety of players,” Hazen pointed out. “No, I have had no baseball-related conversations.”

On Wednesday, the Cincinnati Reds issued a statement that a staff member at their Goodyear, Ariz. training facility tested positive for the coronavirus. All who came into contact have been tested and self-quarantined. The statement pointed out that dates in question were Feb. 29, 2020 to March 14, 2020.

The Diamondbacks’ final spring game was against the Reds in Goodyear on March 10.

“We did play the Reds in our last game and aware of the situation there,” Hazen said. “As far as we know, no one in our organization came into contact with that person and have had only player, a minor league player from the Dominican Republic, tested for the virus. That came back negative.”