In a span of about three days, the Phillies turned their spring training compound into a virtual ghost town, with major- and minor-league players, coaches, and front-office staff retreating to their offseason homes in accordance with state and federal guidelines for containing the coronavirus.
Even talks on a contract extension for J.T. Realmuto have been paused.
For now, Major League Baseball hasn’t put a freeze on rosters or halted transactions. But the commissioner’s office and Players’ Association continue to discuss myriad topics, and absent more direction, Phillies general manager Matt Klentak said Tuesday that the team and Realmuto agreed to table negotiations on an extension that had been considered a high-priority item before the start of the now-delayed season.
Last month, the Phillies won their arbitration hearing against Realmuto, whose 2020 salary was set at $10 million. The All-Star catcher can become a free agent after the season, though, and his representatives are believed to be using Joe Mauer’s catcher-record $23 million average annual salary as a baseline in extension talks. One source suggested Realmuto’s camp is targeting St. Louis Cardinals first baseman Paul Goldschmidt’s five-year, $130 million extension last year.
Another unresolved issue: opt-out clauses for several veteran players who were in camps on minor-league contracts. Infielders Neil Walker and Logan Forsythe and relievers Anthony Swarzak and Francisco Liriano, for instance, could’ve asked for their release on Thursday if they weren’t going to make the Phillies’ opening-day roster.
With spring training on hold -- and without a date for when the season will begin -- do teams have to honor opt-out clauses now, or will they be pushed back?
"We do not have clarity," Klentak said. "There's a possibility we will have to make some of those decisions this week."
Klentak also said the Phillies have “no update” on reliever Seranthony Dominguez, who underwent an MRI last Thursday to determine the severity of a setback in his recovery from a right elbow injury. At the recommendation of renowned Dr. James Andrews, Dominguez side-stepped ligament-reconstruction (Tommy John) surgery last year. It’s unclear if he will be as lucky this time around.
“We are still working through that,” Klentak said.
Klentak said Tuesday that fewer than 20 of the 59 players remaining in big-league camp have stuck around to use the facilities at the Carpenter Complex in semi-private workouts that will be staggered throughout the day to maintain proper social distancing. Klentak traveled home on Monday.
The Phillies paid for all but about 40 players in minor-league camp to return home. Those who are rehabbing injuries were allowed to stay. Also, accommodations are being made in Florida for players who live overseas and are concerned about getting back into the United States.
Klentak said players were allowed to return to Australia and New Zealand, for example. But several Venezuelan players are staying put. Bruce Wang, a 20-year-old catcher from China, had not yet arrived in spring training in the first place.
"If we felt a player was being sent into an environment that was unsafe, whether because of the coronavirus or for any other reason, then those were the instances where we pivoted and opted to find an alternate solution," Klentak said. "But we did send some players home to foreign countries that were deemed to be safe to return to.