After three months of negotiations and uncertainty, the 2020 MLB season is officially on. However, it’s going to look a bit different than years past.
Since the coronavirus pandemic has eaten half of MLB’s normal regular season, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has imposed a 60-game regular season. That means dates that used to be standbys for baseball fans as the season progressed — the All-Star Game, the trade deadline — will have to land elsewhere on the calendar.
Here’s how the 2020 season is shaping up.
June 26: MLB’s transaction freeze ends
Very little is normal for MLB these days, but one familiar thing that will be back very soon are transactions. The transaction freeze the MLB imposed in March is set to end this Friday, meaning teams will be able to sign free agents, make trades and extend their own players.
July 1: Players report to summer camp
With spring out the window, MLB teams will essentially be holding summer camps at their own stadiums for what will effectively be spring training 2.0. The MLBPA has agreed that July 1 will be the report date for its players.
Two days later, teams will submit a list of 60 players to the league that will be eligible to appear this season, replacing the usual pool of minor league teams that provide reinforcements.
This spring training will be divided into three phases, starting with individual and small group workouts, then larger or full-team workouts and finally a limited number of spring training games against other teams.
July 23/24: Opening Day
MLB has announced that Opening Day will arrive on either July 23 or 24, about a month after it announced the season was on. There will likely be much rejoicing by baseball fans.
Of course, teams won’t be playing the schedules announced for this season. Rather, they will be playing only divisional opponents and interleague opponents in the same region (e.g. AL West vs. NL West) to minimize travel. So, for example, the Washington Nationals will play 10 games each against the New York Mets, Atlanta Braves, Philadelphia Phillies and Miami Marlins, then a total of 20 games against the five AL East teams.
August 31: Trade deadline
Usually landing on July 31, MLB is pushing the trade deadline back a full month to Aug. 31. That will mean teams have just a month plus a few days of regular season to figure out if they’re buying or selling in the trade market. Such is life in a severely shortened season.
September 15: Playoff eligibility deadline
One of the quieter major dates on the MLB calendar, the playoff eligibility deadline is the date on which players must be a part of an organization to be eligible for its postseason roster. This doesn’t mean a minor leaguer needs to be called up by that date to make the playoffs, it just applies to free agents still on the market.
Still uncertain: Playoffs, World Series, All-Star Game
While many dates are more or less set in stone, some very important dates are still unannounced. It remains to be seen when the regular season will officially end and the playoffs are held, though MLB’s insistence the seasons ends before November likely means that the playoff schedule will likely resemble the past. It has been reported the league is aiming to close the regular season on Sept. 27.
Last season, the regular season ended on Sept. 29, the wild-card games were held on Oct. 1 and 2 and World Series Game 1 landed on Oct. 22.
Also unclear is the fate of the All-Star Game, previously scheduled to be held on July 14 at Dodger Stadium. MLB will likely be loath to congregate a large group of players with representatives from every team in place, so it seems like we might not get the All-Star Game, or will at least see a highly modified version of All-Star weekend festivities, such as the Home Run Derby.
Even with the season officially announced, there are still so many things that remain up in the air over the next four months. MLB has rarely had to improvise with dates like these, so we’ll just have to wait and see how the rest of the season shakes out.
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