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Here’s what the Tigers payroll would look like under MLB’s proposed salary plan

Tigers won’t lose money if they play baseball in 2020

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MLB: MAY 16 Twins at Tigers Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred told Anderson Cooper on CNN that Major League Baseball would lose up to $4 billion if the 2020 season were canceled, and even more money if 82 games had to be played without fans in attendance. The Detroit Tigers were listed as the least unfortunate team, with a projected loss of $84 million over an 82-game season. Really? Let’s have a look at that claim.

Manfred told CNN:

“The economic effects are devastating, frankly, for the clubs. We’re a big business but we’re a seasonal business. Unfortunately, this crisis began at kind of the low point for us in terms of revenue since we hadn’t quite started our season yet. If we don’t play a season, losses for the owners could approach $4 billion.

MLB claimed, according to the Associated Press, that they would lose even more money, $640,000 for every game that is played without fans, if the players insisted on receiving prorated salaries as they had agreed in March.

The New York Yankees alone would have $312 million in local losses when calculating their earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization (EBIDTA). New York’s figure includes about $100 million toward the bonds that financed new Yankee Stadium, money that already has been paid for 2020.

The Los Angeles Dodgers were at $232 million in local losses, followed by the New York Mets at $214 million, Chicago Cubs at $199 million and Boston Red Sox at $188 million.

Detroit would have the lowest negative EBIDTA — an accounting measure used to assess profitability — at $84 million, with Baltimore at $90 million, and Pittsburgh and Tampa Bay at $91 million each. Figures exclude distributions from the central office, which projects to collect $1.34 billion in media revenue.

So, we’re counting payments on real estate loans, but not counting a chunk of national media revenue? Okay.

On Tuesday, the owners proposed a salary structure that would pay players on a sliding scale between 20 percent and 90 percent of the already-reduced prorated salaries. This would leave players that were previously slated to make the league’s minimum salary ($563,500) with about 46 percent of that, or 90 percent of their prorated salaries. Players at the top of the pay scale would receive 10 cents on the dollar for every dollar in their contract above $20 million.

Here is the proposed pay scale:

  • First $ 563,500 paid at 90%
  • $563,501 to $1 million paid at 72.5%
  • $1,000,001 to $5 million paid at 50%
  • $5,000,001 to $10 million paid at 40%
  • $10,000,001 to $20 million paid at 30%
  • $20,000,001 and up paid at 20%

Note: A player’s proposed salary is determined by multiplying each bracket by the corresponding percentage and then multiplying that by the prorated salary, which is .506172 for 82 games.

The players are expected to make a counter-proposal which will keep the prorated salaries, but will call for more games to be played, up to 110 games. The two sides are apparently in agreement on expanding the playoffs.

Here is a rough estimate of what each Tigers player would receive if their salaries were prorated over 82 games, and how much they would make under the owners’ new proposal.

Detroit Tigers’ Pandemic Salaries

Player Pos. 2020 Salary Prorated Owners
Player Pos. 2020 Salary Prorated Owners
Miguel Cabrera 1B $30,000,000 15,185,185 4,982,356
Jordan Zimmermann RHP $25,000,000 12,654,321 4,476,183
CJ Cron 1B $6,100,000 3,087,654 1,717,540
Jonathan Schoop 2B $6,100,000 3,087,654 1,717,540
Matthew Boyd* LHP $5,300,000 2,682,716 1,559,146
Austin Romine C $4,150,000 2,100,617 1,224,018
Daniel Norris* LHP $2,962,000 1,499,284 923,353
Michael Fulmer* RHP $2,800,000 1,417,284 882,353
JaCoby Jones* CF $1,575,000 797,222 572,324
Cameron Maybin OF $1,500,000 759,259 553,343
Ivan Nova SP $1,500,000 759,259 553,343
Buck Farmer* RHP $1,150,000 582,099 464,763
Niko Goodrum IF/OF $698,200 353,410 318,069
Joe Jimenez RHP $584,900 296,060 266,454
Jeimer Candelario 3B $583,300 295,251 265,726
Victor Reyes OF $573,900 289,000 260,120
Spencer Turnbull RHP $573,500 289,000 260,120
Grayson Greiner C $571,800 289,000 260,120
Christin Stewart LF $571,600 289,000 260,120
Jose Cisnero RP $571,200 289,000 260,120
Harold Castro Util $570,700 289,000 260,120
Dawel Lugo 3B $570,100 289,000 260,120
Gregory Soto LHP $567,800 289,000 260,120
Tyler Alexander LHP $566,600 289,000 260,120
Travis Demeritte OF $566,400 289,000 260,120
David McKay RHP $565,800 289,000 260,120
Eric Haase C $565,400 289,000 260,120
Bryan Garcia RHP $564,400 289,000 260,120
Rony Garcia RHP $563,500 289,000 260,120
Isaac Paredes SS $563,500 289,000 260,120
Total - $97,966,600 $49,587,753 $21,401,447
Prince Fielder** 1B $6,000,000

Salary figures, including the totals, are provided by Cot’s Contracts for the projected Opening Day roster. I’ve added one player to bring the total to 30, which is the roster size proposed in MLB’s plan, so there may be one minimum salary added to the totals if they play ball. A median figure is used for the 15 players at or near minimum salary.

These totals show that the Tigers would have a total payroll under $50 million if they paid the players a prorated share of their salaries over an 82 game schedule, and just $21.4 million if they adopted the owners’ proposal.

Prince Fielder would become the highest paid player in MLB according to the owners’ proposal, receiving an insurance payout through the Texas Rangers and a final payment of $6 million from the Tigers. Miguel Cabrera and Jordan Zimmermann would receive salaries of under $5 million.

One report from The Athletic suggested that the players could agree to play more games and receive 50 percent of their contracted salaries (sound familiar?). Agent Scott Boras blasted the owners’ proposal, suggesting that the owners want the players to bail them out of their payments due on real estate investments. Others have suggested that the owners have a cash flow problem, not necessarily related to baseball expenses, rather than a revenue problem. In that case, a deferment of salaries would seem to be a more appropriate remedy.

The bottom line is that Tigers are not going to lose money by reason of having to meet a payroll of $50 million. Even if local and national revenue were cut in half, there is more than enough there to meet that reduced payroll. If the owners want to cry poverty, they need to open the books and demonstrate how playing games will cost them money. Otherwise, pay the players and get the season underway.