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.