On Sunday afternoon, the Major League Baseball Players Association offered their first counter-proposal to the league for the 2020 season. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the plan includes a 114-game regular season beginning June 30 and ending October 31. It completely eliminates the sliding-scale pay structure proposed by the owners.
The players association also agreed to deferred salaries only if the postseason were canceled. One hundred million dollars in total can be deferred and it would only apply to players making $10 million or more before the original salary proration the two sides agreed upon in March. Clubs would have until November of 2022 to pay the deferred money with interest.
Per Evan Drellich of The Athletic, players will receive a $100 million salary advance during spring training II under the proposal. Joel Sherman of the New York Post also reported that players are willing to consider special revenue-generating events such as an offseason or postseason All-Star Game and Home Run Derby to make up for the revenue shortfall. Players are also willing to wear microphones for the sake of enhancing the broadcast, per Ken Rosenthal and Drellich.
Under the proposal, players also have the opportunity to opt out of playing in 2020. Players who are deemed “high-risk” or live with someone who is at high-risk can earn full salary and service time while those who are not are only eligible for service time.
Finally, the players association is offering up two years of an expanded postseason. That means the field of teams expands from five to seven in each league through the 2021 season, leading up to the end of the current collective bargaining agreement. This aspect of the proposal should intrigue the owners as the additional postseason games in 2021, which hopefully include fans, could make up for some of the lost revenue from the 2020 season.
The initial response from the owners’ side is not good. A source told Jon Heyman of MLB Network the deal is a “non-starter.” Owners prefer a shorter season as they believe they will lose even more money for every additional game played without fans. With fears of a second wave of COVID-19 coming in the fall, owners prefer to reach the postseason as quickly as possible as televised postseason games are more lucrative compared to regular season games. Players, however, care about the integrity of the regular season as well as earning as close to their original 2020 salaries as possible, so they would prefer a longer season.
On a positive note, players have shown they are willing to defer salary. This is a potential area of compromise for the two sides as owners are looking for short-term payroll relief while players want owners to honor the deal they made in March and pay those prorated salaries.
As we head into the beginning of June, it seems more and more likely the season won’t begin around the July 4 target date. The two sides have about a week to agree to deal if they want to begin the season on the Fourth of July. There is no formal deadline for a deal to be made but if the two sides remain as far apart as they currently are a few weeks from now, a 2020 season would likely be in jeopardy.
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