10 MLB Players with the Most to Lose in Shortened 2020 Season
The 60-game 2020 MLB schedule is going to cost everyone something—most obviously, 102 regular-season contests.
Some players, however, could stand to lose a lot on the upcoming free-agent market.
The 2020-21 offseason won't be the best time for anyone to enter free agency. The lack of fans at games and the attending financial uncertainty will likely dampen contracts leaguewide.
However, a combination of factors including recent injury and/or performance means these 10 guys have the most to lose from the truncated campaign.
OF Mookie Betts, Los Angeles Dodgers
Someone is going to pay Mookie Betts. He's a four-time All-Star and the 2018 American League MVP, and he'll turn 28 in October, meaning he's at the apex of his prime.
But the financial ramifications of the short schedule and fanless games might bring the years and dollars down.
In February 2019, Bryce Harper signed a 13-year, $330 million pact with the Philadelphia Phillies. That same month, Manny Machado agreed to a 10-year, $300 million deal with the San Diego Padres.
In terms of age, pedigree and skill set, Betts should be in that same contractual ballpark. But will any team, even one as deep-pocketed as the Los Angeles Dodgers, shell out those kinds of years and dollars after possibly losing money during the 2020 season? Or would Betts be better off signing a short-term deal this winter and then testing free agency again after a hopefully more normal 2021 go-round?
SS Didi Gregorius, Philadelphia Phillies
Didi Gregorius played just 82 games with the New York Yankees in 2019 and slashed .238/.276/.441. It seemed like a good idea for the 30-year-old to sign a one-year, $14 million show-me contract with the Philadelphia Phillies and try to rebuild his value.
Gregorius posted an .829 OPS and picked up down-ballot MVP votes as recently as 2018, after all.
Now, however, he'll have only the 60-game sprint to prove his 2019 downturn was a fluke. Sure, he could get hot and earn himself a nice payday, but he's one of several players on this list who will be hurt by the perception that anything he does in 2020 warrants a small-sample caveat.
INF Yuli Gurriel, Houston Astros
Under normal circumstances, a player like Yuli Gurriel should be in line for at least one more good contract. He hit .298 with 31 home runs and 104 RBI in 2019 while logging innings at first base, third base and second base for the AL champion Houston Astros.
These aren't normal circumstances, however.
Gurriel will land a deal this offseason. But he'll be entering his age-37 campaign. Given the potentially depressed market, that could force him to accept a shorter and less lucrative pact than a player with his stats and versatility would typically command.
LHP Mike Minor, Texas Rangers
Every impending free agent will get fewer opportunities to build his resume in 2020, but that's especially true for starting pitchers, who might only make 10 to 11 starts and could be on pitch-count restrictions early in the season.
Consider Mike Minor, who posted career bests in innings pitched (208.1) and strikeouts (200) in 2019 with the Texas Rangers, made his first All-Star team and finished eighth in AL Cy Young Award voting.
A repeat performance could have landed Minor a nice long-term contract in free agency. That said, he'll turn 33 in December, posted a 4.18 ERA as recently as 2018 and missed all of 2015 and 2016 because of shoulder issues.
Will a handful of 2020 outings be enough for Minor to prove he's worth more than a short-term investment? Maybe not.
RHP Jake Odorizzi, Minnesota Twins
Like Minor, Jake Odorizzi was a first-time All-Star in 2019 as he posted a career-best 3.36 FIP with 10.1 strikeouts per nine innings for the Minnesota Twins.
Rather than parlay that into a long-term contract, Odorizzi accepted the Twins' one-year, $17.8 million qualifying offer.
"When it came down to it, the decision came down to me pretty much betting on myself and returning to a place I know very well and enjoyed and continue to improve on what I did last year and then re-entering the market next offseason with a different class," he told reporters.
Even if he pitches well, the short season may not provide enough opportunity for the 30-year-old to make good on that bet.
OF Marcell Ozuna, Atlanta Braves
Marcell Ozuna rejected the St. Louis Cardinals' qualifying offer but ended up signing a one-year, $18 million deal with the Atlanta Braves.
The 29-year-old outfielder was an All-Star and Gold Glove winner in 2017 but hit a career-worst .241 in 2019.
Even a scalding 60-game stretch with Atlanta might not be enough to land him a large, multiyear payday. At least one more show-me pact could be in Ozuna's future, and those are always risky.
RHP Garrett Richards, San Diego Padres
In 2015, Garrett Richards posted a 3.65 ERA in a career-best 207.1 innings with the Los Angeles Angels and looked like a rising ace.
Since then, a series of injuries have derailed his promising career.
He barely pitched last year as he recovered from Tommy John surgery. Now 32 years old, Richards is trying to resurrect himself with the San Diego Padres, with whom he signed a two-year, $15.5 million deal prior to the 2019 campaign.
Even if he dazzles in the short season, any potential suitors will probably want to see more before handing him anything other than a one-year contract.
SS Marcus Semien, Oakland Athletics
Marcus Semien had a career year in 2019, posting career bests in average (.285), OPS (.892) and home runs (33) and finishing third in AL MVP balloting.
Now, the 29-year-old needs to prove it was no fluke.
The problem, of course, is that he'll only have 60 games to do so. Considering he'd never posted an OPS above .735 prior to last year, it's possible teams will be wary even if Semien rakes in 2020.
That's not to say he won't get paid. It's almost certain he'll vault out of the small-market Oakland Athletics' price range. But the gaudy contract he could have garnered with a 162-game follow-up of his 2019 breakout might not materialize.
OF George Springer, Houston Astros
Clubs that are looking for an impact outfielder will first look to Betts. If they whiff on him, George Springer is a viable plan B.
The 30-year-old three-time All-Star swatted 39 home runs with a .974 OPS in 2019. Normally, he'd be set up for a huge contract from the Astros or someone else.
If Betts' market is depressed, however, Springer's will be too.
He'll find a gig, but it's possible to imagine he takes a high-dollar one-year deal and re-enters a presumably more certain market following the 2021 season.
3B Justin Turner, Los Angeles Dodgers
Justin Turner has quietly been one of the best third basemen in the game for the past several seasons. Last year was no different, as he hit .290 with an .881 OPS for the Dodgers.
Yet he'll turn 36 in November. Even a club as rich as L.A. might balk at handing him more than a short-term contract.
If he'd been able to prove himself over one more 162-game haul in 2020, things might have been different. Which sums up the fate of every player on this list.
All statistics courtesy of Baseball Reference.