COVID-19 Roundup: Tragedies and Compromises

This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.

Miguel Marte Passes Away

Former A’s minor leaguer Miguel Marte passed away last week due to complications from COVID-19. Marte played in Oakland’s system from 2008 to 2012 and topped out in Low-A Vermont. After leaving baseball, Marte settled in New Jersey and worked as a truck driver. He was only 30.

The A’s have helped to promote a GoFundMe to support Marte’s family — he and his wife had two children. It’s a cruel reminder that when they’re done playing baseball, many minor leaguers go back to living regular lives, and that COVID-19 can touch us all, no matter our age or situation in life.

Summer Leagues Postponed

Two college summer leagues, the Coastal Plain League and Western Canadian Baseball League, have both announced that they will delay the start of their seasons in response to COVID-19. Both leagues showcase college players over the summer, and are targeting a start date around the beginning of July — July 1 for the CPL and a broader late-June/early-July target for the WCBL.

Summer leagues operate under serious financial constraints; even more so than the minor leagues, they often have a shoestring budget and have no real safety net should attendance dip. This delay could be particularly painful because with a shortened amateur draft, this is likely to be a banner year for talent in college summer leagues — if they can manage to remain in business.

Florida Clears Live Events

Governor Ron DeSantis outlined a plan to loosen social distancing and shelter-in-place guidelines that could have a profound impact on sporting events. The document states “Large spectator sporting events should use strict social distancing guidelines and limit occupancy of venues to 25 percent of building capacity.” These guidelines are scheduled to go into effect today.

Notably, the plan excludes Miami-Date, Broward, and Palm Beach Counties, which means that the Marlins would be exempt from the new guidelines, and in any case, baseball isn’t nearing a return. But it could simplify plans that involve playing some portion of the season in Florida; the league could allow some attendance, or at least camera crews and other personnel, more easily.

Of course, the most difficult logistical parts of hosting a season aren’t handled by this plan. But the fact that Florida is specifically discussing large sporting events means the state will likely cooperate with MLB on a re-opening plan. That makes Florida a more likely destination for the eventual return of baseball, and also makes that return somewhat more likely as well. Major league play may not start until 2021 — but there is a season this year, it looks increasingly probable that Florida will be involved somehow.

Umpires Settle With MLB

MLB and its umpires were at an impasse over umpire pay in 2020. But on Friday, Ken Rosenthal reported that the umpires have agreed to MLB’s proposal. That deal includes pro-rating umpires’ salaries based on how many games are played this year, though with a bonus for working a second spring training.

The deal had divided umpires — they’re paid year round, so they have already received four months’ pay. Consequently, a pro-rating across the entire season means that they will have received the vast majority of their salary for the year already.

Draft Disagreements

The Major League Baseball Players Association’s has rejected MLB’s latest proposal for the draft. The plan was a variation on the current agreement, which calls for a minimum of five rounds with normal bonuses pools (albeit ones with slot values that mirror 2019 amounts), and a $20,000 signing bonus cap on any undrafted free agents.

MLB’s new plan would expand the draft to 10 rounds, but rounds six through 10 would carry bonus slots that are 50% of their 2019 levels. Additionally, those rounds would be hard slotted (the draft is normally soft-capped, with a team’s draft pool considered collectively), and only five undrafted free agents would be eligible for a $20,000 bonus — after that, the highest allowable bonus would be $5,000.

The two sides will go back to the bargaining table, but while the union has at times been willing to put draft concerns aside to protect current members — witness the original draft negotiation — they found this proposal to restrict spending too much relative to the current deal, even with the additional round beyond the five required.

The draft is still expected to take place in June — the scouting concerns that teams advanced early in March appear to have been inconsequential or at least eminently manageable. But a final agreement between the league and the union is likely before then — it’s in MLB’s interest to get the union’s go-ahead on a final plan given the generally contentious nature of the relationship between the two parties at the moment.

We hoped you liked reading COVID-19 Roundup: Tragedies and Compromises by Ben Clemens!

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Ben is a contributor to FanGraphs. A lifelong Cardinals fan, he got his start writing for Viva El Birdos. He can be found on Twitter @_Ben_Clemens.

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rthompson
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rthompson

Is it just me or does Florida’s plan seem…insane?

karovda
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karovda

Not just you

Smiling Politely
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Smiling Politely

just remove the “‘s plan” and you’ve got it

TKDC
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TKDC

Even calling it a “plan” seems generous. It is about as thoughtful as sample text.

frank
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frank

Not for 2021 maybe …

I’m all for baseball this year, but it’s hard to see how we do it with crowds, even with physical distancing. And 25% of stadium capacity?