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Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Despite the pandemic nearly upending the 2020 season, MLB's long-term economic health appears strong.

Yes, but: The short-term outlook is much darker, as the league prepares for an offseason of transactional paralysis, all while the threat of a 2022 work stoppage looms large. And did I mention the minor leagues are in complete disarray?

This offseason:

  • Free agency: The financial hit owners took this season will be passed on to the players. We've already seen teams decline options on studs like Charlie Morton and Kolten Wong, and free agency spending will likely plummet. "Revenues are going down," Cardinals president of baseball operations John Mozeliak said last week. "So it will be most likely [that] payroll will go down."
  • The unknowns: There's still plenty of time, but the league and players' union still need to figure out what next season will look like — replaying a negotiation that turned ugly this summer. On top of that, NL teams still don't know whether there will be a DH, which impacts free agency moves.

Looking ahead:

  • Expiring CBA: The current collective bargaining agreement expires next December, meaning the threat of a work stoppage will linger for the next 13 months. In normal times, CBA negotiations would begin this offseason. But the more immediate crisis of planning a 2021 season makes that unlikely.
  • Minor leagues: There was no minor league season this year, and MLB has already begun dissolving teams amid a historic contraction that could see 42 clubs lose affiliate status. While restructuring makes some sense, this is a bad look for MLB — and will be yet another negative storyline driving the news.

The bottom line, via WashPost's Dave Sheinin: "For baseball, 2020 featured an ugly labor battle that played out in public, a season reduced by 63%, a couple of major coronavirus outbreaks ... and total regular season attendance of zero.

  • "But as the coming months wear on, it may be possible to look back and regard 2020 as the good old days."

Series schedule:

Go deeper

Kendall Baker, author of Sports
Oct 1, 2021 - Sports

NWSL in crisis after sexual harassment, abuse allegations

North Carolina Courage coach Paul Riley talks to his team in 2020. Photo: Maddie Meyer/Getty Images

After years of silence, NWSL players are speaking up — detailing cases of harassment and abuse, often at the hands of male coaches.

Driving the news: The North Carolina Courage fired coach Paul Riley on Thursday amid allegations of sexual coercion that span over a decade and involve multiple teams.

Right-wingers making McCarthy sweat for future Speaker post

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy stands with his Republican colleagues outside the House on Nov. 17. Photo: Stefani Reynolds/Bloomberg via Getty Images

Right-wing elements in the Republican Party are complicating House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy's attempts to become the next speaker of the House should the GOP take back the majority in 2022.

Why it matters: While McCarthy has worked carefully to build trust among the conservatives who tanked his chances at clinching the speakership in 2015, they're still circling ahead of the next Speaker vote in January 2023.

Congress sprints to meet crush of deadlines

Illustration: Aïda Amer/Axios

Congressional leaders have been pushing off vital action for months — and a lot of it will catch up with them in December, which begins Wednesday.

Driving the news: Funding for the federal government is set to expire at midnight on Friday. There are also consequential deadlines related to the debt limit, President Biden's agenda and annual actions like voting on the National Defense Authorization Act.