What is the Florida-Arizona plan, and how will it affect the Mariners?
April 16, 2020
If we get professional baseball this summer, it is going to look very different from seasons past. A few things are known. There will be fewer games than the standard 162 game season. Doubleheaders will be scheduled into the plan instead of just being used as a way to make up rainouts. The designated hitter will likely be used by all teams and games will be played without fans.
As reported in USA Today on April 10, one of the plans being considered by Major League Baseball (according to a high-ranking official speaking on the condition of anonymity,) is something called the Florida-Arizona plan.
Under this plan, teams would play their games at spring training facilities in either Florida or Arizona. Players and staff might be sequestered in hotels.
Here is a look at what the new divisional matchups might look like in the Florida-Arizona plan:
Cactus League (games in Arizona)
Northwest – Kansas City Royals, Milwaukee Brewers, San Diego Padres, Seattle Mariners, Texas Rangers.
West – Los Angeles Dodgers, Chicago Whites Sox, Cincinnati Reds, Cleveland Indians, Los Angeles Angels.
Northeast – Chicago Cubs, San Francisco Giants, Arizona Diamondbacks, Colorado Rockies, Oakland Athletics.
Grapefruit League (games in Florida)
North – New York Yankees, Philadelphia Phillies, Toronto Blue Jays, Detroit Tigers, Pittsburgh Pirates.
South – Boston Red Sox, Minnesota Twins, Atlanta Braves, Tampa Bay Rays, Baltimore Orioles.
East – Washington Nationals, Houston Astros, New York Mets, St. Louis Cardinals, Miami Marlins.
One thing that should jump out if you are a Mariners fan is that the Northwest division looks a lot easier than the American League West. Only the Brewers had a winning record last year. The combined winning percentage of the teams in the Northwest division last year was (.449). The combined winning percentage of teams in the Grapefruit League (.507) is better than the Cactus League (.493). The Mariners are still in the middle of a rebuild and you shouldn't expect them to make the playoffs this season but playing in this new league should mean they would be in contention longer into the season and the individual games should be more competitive.
The COVID-19 outbreak is going to make the Mariners rebuild more difficult. High school, college and minor league baseball won't be played this season, making player drafting even more difficult. Some of the players the Mariners have picked up on one-year contracts (Kendall Graveman, Taijuan Walker) were likely done so they could be traded to contending teams at the trade deadline in exchange for prospects to help the rebuild. It's possible that due to COVID-19, trades between leagues won't be allowed this season. That hurts the Mariners since most of the teams in the Cactus League are also rebuilding and not likely to trade prospects. Three teams in the Cactus League won ninety or more games last season, including the Los Angeles Dodgers (106), Oakland A's (97), and Cleveland Indians (93). Oakland is an unlikely trading partner since next year they should be back in the same division as the Mariners. Unless injuries strike the Dodgers, they have no incentive to trade from their farm system as their major league team is loaded with talent. That just leaves the Cleveland Indians which doesn't leave the Mariners with much negotiating power.
Of course, all of this depends on whether games can be played safely and if the players union agrees to the many conditions that need to be worked out including salaries, service time, and whether players are willing to be separated from their families for a stretch of four months.