Players will need several weeks to get back into rhythm, and because of social distancing guidelines and expanded rosters, teams will likely need more than one field to conduct work. With that in mind, the Cubs and White Sox have each checked in with local colleges and minor league owners about the availability of their baseball fields from June through September, league sources said.
In such a scenario, the Cubs and White Sox will train on their home field and utilize another one for the rest of their expanded roster that can't safely fit inside Wrigley Field or Guaranteed Rate Field during spring training. Curtis Granderson Stadium at UIC and North Park College are two examples of extra fields that could be used.
Spring training 2.0 is expected to be conducted in many teams' home cities for the first time in history. Some clubs are still considering using their usual spring training facilities, but with temperatures often near 110 degrees in the summer in Arizona, that location is going to be a non-starter for many organizations.
In spring training 2.0, teams will probably have somewhere between 40 and 50 players working out daily, sources said, getting ready for a regular season that could be anywhere from 60 to 100 games, depending on how the MLB labor negotiations are resolved. Owners have proposed an 82-game season while the players countered with 100-plus in the first round of exchanged proposals.
Because of the unique circumstances, teams will have expanded rosters for games. MLB could allow teams to have as many as 30 to 35 players on their active roster on game days to begin, then pare that number down as the season moves along. With the cancellation of the minor league season now a formality, according to sources, the players who aren't on a team's active roster on game day will still need to get their daily work in, which could be done at the extra field.
Baseball is hoping to reach a labor deal that will allow spring training 2.0 to start by June 10. The sides would need to reach a deal early next week for that target date to be a reality. At issue now are the economic model and medical guidelines to protect players.
Pitchers would have almost four weeks of spring training to work their arms back into form, while position players would have around three weeks to get ready.
In lieu of a minor league season, MLB is looking at an extended fall season in November and December, two sources said. That would be different from the normal Arizona Fall League that runs from early October until the first week of November in which 30 clubs send their best six or so prospects to play. Of course, that plan is still pending the state of the coronavirus outbreak at the time.
As the season remains suspended, the Cubs have been staying in touch with their players regularly and using as many methods as they can to help them stay sharp. Pitchers and hitters have had Zoom meetings with each other as well as the front office and coaching personnel.
The Cubs released 30 minor league players earlier this week and will pay them through June 30. Older minor league players who normally make up a portion of each MLB team's Triple-A roster will arguably lose the most amid the coronavirus pandemic. Younger players are likely to get the callup to the big leagues more often when players get injured or become sick this season.
Traditionally, the Cubs and White Sox rarely play home games on the same day in Chicago, but they could do so more often this season given the schedule changes, sources said. An out-of-town foe playing back-to-back series against the Cubs and White Sox would limit travel for it. Less air travel is a primary goal of MLB amid the coronavirus outbreak.