We’re not even a month removed from the shortened 2020 season, and it already looks as though the 2021 MLB season may be facing hurdles – that is, if they start at all.
COVID-19 is once again running rampant throughout the country, with the state of Illinois now reporting a seven-day, statewide positive test rate at 14%. Chicago’s mayor, Lori Lightfoot is in lockstep with Illinois Governor JB Pritzker, and the pair is preparing to shut down the state once again.
Currently, they’re asking that nobody leaves their home for anything other than work, take-out food, school, grocery shopping, or medical services, though Pritzker is now considering another statewide shutdown; other states are reportedly considering doing the same. Cancel Thanksgiving and Christmas.
“But,” you say, “ there’s still three-and-a-half months until spring training starts, and even more time until the 2021 MLB season begins” Yes, that’s true, but a couple of days ago the national news was reporting that Joe Biden’s advisors have led him to consider instituting a 4-6-week nationwide lockdown when he takes office on January 20th. If that occurs, it automatically pushes spring training back, which will ultimately delay the start and (most likely) shorten the regular season – again, if they even play.
MLB had been working on a plan to allow at least some fans to attend games during the 2021 MLB season, but that may be a pipe dream at this point.
More Implications For the 2021 MLB Season
In the interim, all MLB winter meetings have been canceled, the no in-person scouting order continues, and free agency is likely going to suffer, as the league continues to use COVID-19 related revenue losses as a reason (or, as some would believe, an excuse) to drive down what they can afford to pay players.
An insider recently told me to look for a lot of one-year deals for free agents this winter. Teams will be offering lower rates, causing players to want single-year deals.
For guys like Brandon Kintzler and Trevor Bauer, this works out just fine for the 2021 MLB season. Kintzler is motivated by one-year deals, as he knows nothing is guaranteed for the next season unless he performs. Trevor Bauer, meanwhile, has said he isn’t signing anything other than one-year deals, as his stock continues to rise.
Not that the big-ticket free agents don’t usually wait a while to sign but look for most teams to focus more on mid-level free agents with an even bigger emphasis on trades.
Several players (including Bauer) are considering switching over to either the Korean Baseball Organization (KBO) or NPB (Nippon Professional Baseball). Both Japan and S. Korea have had success in controlling the virus, but even more appealing are the attractive salaries with guaranteed contracts.
Due to the outbreak last year, baseball became the litmus test for other professional sports. This time around, as the virus continues to spread again, the focus shifts to the NFL and the NBA.
Football has had to cancel games, and it’s questionable as to whether or not the NBA will start their season, especially if new shelter in place orders are being handed down. The NBA has already stated that if they attempt to allow fans, they will be ejected if they come within 30 feet of the players or benches. A lot of good that does if they manage to contaminate anyone before being ejected…
To the best of my knowledge, no stats have been released about the spread of the virus during the LCS and World Series, where some fans were allowed to attend games. Of course, that doesn’t account for Justin Turner and those he likely infected.
Stay tuned – the 2021 MLB season is likely to be more of the same. In the meantime, stay healthy and safe as we begin to enter the holiday season.
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