MLB: Commissioner tells teams to plan for spring training to start on time and a full 162-game season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - MAY 04: The MCU Park baseball field at Coney Island is closed during the coronavirus pandemic on May 04, 2020 in New York City. COVID-19 has spread to most countries around the world, claiming over 252,000 lives with over 3.6 million infections reported. (Photo by Roy Rochlin/Getty Images)

Too much ink has been spilled in the last eight or nine months explaining how MLB and the players association, together with the COVID-19 pandemic, managed to cut the regular season calendar to 60 games in 2020. For weeks, even months, they couldn’t agree on essential, minimum requirements.

This time, however, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred has, according to Bob Nightengale of USA Today, informed clubs on a conference call Monday that they “should be preparing for spring training to start on time in February and to plan on a full 162-game season being played.”

The threat of the virus hasn’t gone away, but MLB learned a lot about social distancing, health and safety protocols during the 2020 season. And with talks about eventually letting fans into stadiums to enjoy the games, it appears that this time, every factor is pulling in the same direction.

A few weeks ago, reports came out about MLB and its 30 ownership groups hoping to delay the start of the 2021 campaign with the intention of allowing more time for players, personnel, and fans to be vaccinated.

MLB free agents could start signing after the news

Naturally, the MLB players association said it has no interest whatsoever in forfeiting salary for a second consecutive year. Fewer games would mean less revenue, and players losing more money.

According to Rotoworld, the reported conference call could potentially spark some movement on the free agency front, as teams now know that the odds of a full, semi-normal season happening are high.

Indeed, after the reported conference call, the Chicago White Sox made a major signing, filling a need in their bullpen by adding All-Star closer Liam Hendriks to a lucrative three-year deal with an option for a fourth.

With spring training a little over a month away, teams should be starting to look at free agents to fill their roster needs.