Jon Morosi reports that MLB, the MLBPA and the World Baseball Softball Commission have reached an agreement on which players will be eligible to compete in the upcoming Tokyo Olympics.
Per Morosi, players who are on 40-man rosters but not in the big leagues will be allowed to participate in the Olympics. That means that a number of top prospects and veterans in the minors are now eligible, which significantly improves the talent level of the teams. Players who are not on 40-man rosters were already able to compete. The agreement will be in effect for the qualifying rounds taking place from March 22nd-26th in Arizona. Teams are not obligated to allow players within their organizations to compete, but one imagines that at least some fairly notable names will be suiting up.
The Olympics run from July 24th to August 9th, with baseball being an event for the first time since 2008. Unlike the Japanese and Korean leagues, MLB will not be having a midsummer break to the schedule to allow for players to compete in Tokyo. That means no, you won’t be seeing guys like Mike Trout and Juan Soto competing for gold medals. However, it’s entirely possible that someone like Adam Jones, who now plays in Japan, could be playing for Team USA. Other notable players such as Wladimir Balentien and Hayato Sakamoto could compete as well.
It’s difficult to judge whether or not MLB teams will be cool with their top prospects going to Tokyo. Do the Rays, for instance, really want to let Wander Franco out of their sights? What about the White Sox and Andrew Vaughn? Would the Braves let Drew Waters or Christian Pache go play, if they haven’t made the majors by then? That also leads to another question.
There’s a lot of good nearly-MLB ready players who could go represent their countries in the Olympics. Would their MLB teams be okay with letting that bit of depth fly to Japan for a few weeks? That’s some serious injury insurance hopping on a plane and flying around the world, and not a quick phone call away in Triple-A. There’s a lot of considerations to take into account.
There’s also the matter of the coronavirus outbreak. Both NPB and the KBO have already cancelled some spring training games because worries about the spread of the disease. There’s no telling how long the crisis will last, but the Olympics could be impacted if the outbreak isn’t contained by July.
Obviously it would be cool as hell to watch a bunch of top prospects go whack baseballs in the Olympics. Putting Adley Rutschman in the same lineup as veterans like Adam Jones? Sign me up. I just wonder how much flexibility the teams are going to allow with their players.