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There’s no baseball but teams are still manipulating service time

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There may be no baseball being played but some teams are still doing what they do best: taking advantage of powerless minor leaguers and manipulating service time.

That’s the report from Kyle Glaser of Baseball America, whose sources tell him that “at least four teams were offering undrafted amateur players — and a few recently drafted players — contracts that begin in the 2021 season rather than in 2020.

This is a change from the usual practice in which players taken in the June draft, or who sign immediately after the draft, are given contracts for the current year, which starts their minor league service time running. That service time, in turn, dictates when they become eligible for the Rule 5 draft or when they become minor league free agents who can command higher salaries. By starting their contracts running next year — while still maintaining rights to the players this year — the teams who ink these deals are gaining an additional year of control over the players and are reducing the pressure on themselves to promote players lest they lose the benefits of their services.

One might say, “hey wait, but there’s no baseball yet this year, and there likely will be no minor league baseball at all! So of course the deals should start next year!” Nah, not buying it. The teams still have control over the player in 2020, the player who signs or who is drafted is still restricted from seeking another team to play for, and, in all likelihood, the player will still be subject to instruction and training of some sort in 2020, be it at a team facility or under orders from a team to pursue certain conditioning activities at home.

So this is a power grab by teams. The wrestling away of yet another year after they already control these young men for many years as it is. It’s service time manipulation, pure and simple.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”