Usual disclaimer that there are far more important issues at this time of our lives, but just trying to distract and fill the time before the Space Madness makes me hit the big red button in my house. Which I will have to pretend actually does something, but don’t you worry, my imagination/delusions are strong.
MLB teams have very few knowns at this point. The league as a whole does as well. They don’t know if there will be a season, what shape it will take if there is one, along with all the CBA questions such as service time and what they’ll do if minor league teams simply can’t survive without a played season (just kidding, the owners will laugh maniacally at their pleas and misfortune as they get what they wanted anyway, i.e. a mass shrinking of MiLB so they can have more dollars to wipe their ass with in this time of TP hoarding).
Down the scale a bit is what team’s trajectories will look like and how they will change. For those at the top, they can’t help but wonder if a missed season will sharply close their championship windows. Close to home, the Cubs couldn’t yell loud enough about how their time to compete was shrinking, if open at all (mostly due to their own failures and cheapness) as an excuse to justify exploring trades for some of their greatest players in franchise history. Not getting a crack in 2020 will only make that more complicated, as their “core” could get closer to free agency without the tradeoff of getting another season together. The Nationals have already lost Anthony Rendon, and Max Scherzer is now 36 and how long can you count on pitchers’ ligaments and tendons to continue to work harmoniously? The Braves could lose out on a season where their entire roster is basically cheap and controlled without having won a playoff series yet. And on it goes.
But on the other side of the spectrum, rebuilding teams have to readjust their sights and possibly lose out on the moves that would have sped up their cycle.
Teams like the Tigers, Mariners, Rangers, Marlins, Rockies (maybe), Royals, Blue Jays, Orioles, Giants (the fact that this list is so long is a sickening and certainly an indication that the whole industry is broken) and to a lesser extend Padres have so many factors to consider that the delicate process of going from the muck to the penthouse over a matter of years could be permanently derailed. I intentionally didn’t include the Pirates because who the fuck knows what they’re doing, other than watching Greedy Spice Bob Nutting treat his six remaining fans like a jizz-rag.
In no particular order, a missed or greatly reduced slate of games could stunt a whole host of players’ development. Pitchers who need to extend the amount of innings their arms can carry won’t get the ramp up. They won’t get the time to develop a second or third pitch. A stop-start spring training for a shortened season could lead to all sorts of injuries. Hitters won’t get the reps they need as they climb the ranks, and they stall out in Double-A or Triple-A for all sorts of reasons in normal circumstances. And it’s another season of evaluation lost where teams can get a better idea of who will be part of things when they will matter again and who won’t.
Another problem is the matter of moving vets for prospects or lottery tickets that every rebuilding team goes through to try and unearth another gem. For instance, while it’s unlikely, the Giants would unload either Brandon Crawford or Brandon Belt (this is my brother Darryl and my other brother Darryl) or both of them. Both players would be at something of peak value at this deadline with another year left on their contracts. Who knows how that will work now, and both will be even deeper into their 30s come the 2021 season. Would be hard to get much more for a trade piece like that than some Single-A goober who throws 102 MPH but is bewildered by how his belt works.
The Giants aren’t alone. The Mariners might have hoped Taijuan Walker could miracle them something with an impressive two or three months after returning from the injury wilderness. The Marlins with Corey Dickerson, or in addition the inflated prices you might get for a reliever like Brandon Kintzler that they signed this winter. Would the Royals have hoped Alex Gordon could have provided a death rattle and move along for anything at 36? The Tigers...ha, just kidding. The Tigers don’t have shit. But this list could go on a while.
Most teams in this position would be selling 2022 or 2023 as the time things would brighten, but all those would have to be pushed back a year or more. And that makes for an even harder sell when you’re still in March 2020. Would that be past the breaking point for most fans? That’s only something we can know when we get there.
How service time is resolved with whatever season MLB puts together might be the biggest issue. A team like the Blue Jays could see their entire core move a year closer to arbitration and free agency without getting the ABs for Vlad Guerrero Jr., Cavan Biggio and Bo Bichette that push them closer to stardom and making everyone in Toronto stop eating their stuffed animals and covering themselves in their own urine over the Leafs’ third line for seven minutes.
A lot of MLB teams have used the Astros or Cubs’ total teardown-to-championship model as cover for simply skimping out on paying for a competitive team while they soak in the TV and internet money that comes regardless. And even those that have sincerely tried to build a sustained winner have been derailed, because it’s not easy. As mentioned earlier, the Braves have yet to see the NLCS, though have two division crowns. The Phillies can’t seem to shake the witch’s curse of winning no more or less than 81 games. The Diamondbacks and Rockies both took no more than one or two runs at the Dodgers, were reminded of the meaningless of life, and decided it wasn’t worth it.
It’s hard enough, and a greatly-altered 2020 season will only make it more so.