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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
Nov 6, 2020 - Sports

The Premier Lacrosse League thrived despite the coronavirus pandemic

Courtesy: Premier Lacrosse League

While most sports leagues experienced steep ratings and revenue declines this year, the two-year-old Premier Lacrosse League saw increases in both categories.

Why it matters: The PLL, which replaced its tour-based season with a bubble tournament in Utah, presents a fascinating case study for how upstart leagues can adapt on the fly.

What COVID-19 vaccine trials still need to do

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

COVID-19 vaccines are being developed at record speed, but some experts fear the accelerated regulatory process could interfere with ongoing research about the vaccines.

Why it matters: Even after the first COVID-19 vaccines are deployed, scientific questions will remain about how they are working and how to improve them.

1 hour ago - Podcasts

Faces of COVID creator on telling the stories of those we've lost

America yesterday lost 2,762 people to COVID-19, per the CDC, bringing the total pandemic toll to 272,525. That's more than the population of Des Moines, Iowa. Or Baton Rouge, Louisiana. Or Toledo, Ohio.

Axios Re:Cap speaks with Alex Goldstein, creator of the @FacesofCOVID Twitter account, about sharing the stories behind the statistics.