As Major League Baseball continues to look for ways to bring America’s Pastime back as quickly and safely as possible, the league’s recent proposal could see MLB return as early as May. While discussions for how to implement the plan are ongoing, one aspect of the proposal could result in a dramatic change for many players and teams.
MLB’s plan, which ESPN’s Jeff Passan reported on Monday night, would move all 30 teams to Arizona and quarantine them, along with team personnel for the entire 2020 season. The only travel allowed would be to and from the stadium and players would be tested frequently to check for symptoms of COVID-19.
According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, MLB and the players’ union are discussing expanding rosters to upwards of 50 players. The move would give organizations far more flexibility in a situation where teams would potentially be isolated for months with the MiLB season still suspended and with free agents unlikely to be signed.
MLB announced during the offseason that it would expand to 26-man rosters this upcoming season after teams used 25-man rosters for years. However, this proposal would lead to teams needing to play double-headers more often and they wouldn’t be able to bring in players who were outside the quarantine.
A potential 50-man roster would certainly allow teams to ensure they have enough players for an entire season, potentially even approaching a 162-game schedule if the season started in May and multiple double-headers were played each week. Because the stadiums would be empty, players would sit in the stands and be six feet apart to follow social distancing guidelines.
It also might prove beneficial to MLB players, for those willing to stay in Arizona under isolation and potentially away from their families. Players who might not have made the 26-man roster in a normal season could now reach the majors and receive a larger salary.
Additionally, it would give players a chance to accrue service time earlier in their career, accelerating their path to free agency after six seasons.
Of course, MLB’s plan is only at the early stages and major hurdles remain. Among them ongoing discussions about whether or not to allow close family members to stay with players at hotels. MLB would also need to ensure there is enough testing in place with medical support on standby if a player tested positive for COVID-19.
At the very least, it’s clear MLB is trying to do whatever it can to bring baseball back and ensure the safety of many. Whether this idea progresses along and paves the way for a season to be played might be the biggest factor that determines if there will be a 2020 season.