Major League Baseball Could See Star Players Sit Out 2020 Season

Rob Manfred
Rob Manfred at 2019 Major League Baseball Winter Meetings | Billie Weiss/Boston Red Sox/Getty Images

Major League Baseball is trying to start the 2020 season as rapidly as possible, but the owners and players are not on the same page. Players want to get paid the same per-game rate they were promised for this season, but owners would prefer to pay them pennies on the dollar due to reduced revenues. Now the league is facing another problem as star players could opt to sit out the season rather than play and risk injury or illness.

Blake Snell got raked over the coals for publicly stating he wouldn't pitch this season for less than the money promised to him. While fans didn't like hearing that, other players have backed him up. Both Bryce Harper and Nolan Arenado agreed with Snell's sentiments. If the owners seem dug in on paying the players far less than they promised two months ago, some players may decide this season isn't worth it.

I think we all need to start preparing for some stars to announce they're sitting out 2020 due to the risks associated with playing.

The perfect example for this scenario is Mookie Betts. The former MVP outfielder is due to be a free agent in the fall. Why would he risk illness and injury for far less money when he is on the cusp of getting a long-term deal worth at least $30 million a year? Plenty of guys suffer devastating injuries throughout the course of a baseball season, why would he risk devaluing himself if he's not even getting his full salary? There's absolutely no incentive for him to play for less than his full game check.

Guys like Harper, Arenado, Snell, Betts and others have earned the money they get paid. They can't be expected to play for less than they are worth and do so with a smile. Especially given the risk they would be incurring with a pandemic running wild. Hell, we don't even know the long-term health impacts of contracting COVID-19 yet.

Some of these players have relatives in high-risk categories or have their own pre-existing conditions. Mike Trout and Zack Wheeler have pregnant wives. Would it be smarter for them to play for less money or just sit out and avoid all risk?

Maybe the owners and players will come to some sort of agreement but I'd be shocked if that happens quickly. If it is resolved soon, I fully expect some of the league's stars to pass on playing. If that happens, the owners would be the big losers. Without star players MLB will see interest and revenues drop ever further.

There might be a deal here, but it's unlikely players will agree to the kind of draconian pay cuts the owners are proposing.