The Major league baseball players’ association (MLBPA) submitted a counter proposal to major league owners (MLB) on Sunday. According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the proposal calls for:
- 114 game schedule with games from June 30 to October 31
- Prorated salaries paid to players as agreed last March
- Players could opt out of playing the 2020 season for health reasons
- Expanded playoff format for 2020 and 2021 seasons
- Deferred salaries up to $100 million if playoffs are canceled or shortened
The counter offer comes in response to the owners’ proposal that would have reduced player salaries by up to 80 percent, which players say is a non starter. Owners claim that they would lose up to $4 billion if they were to play an 82 game schedule with no fans, although they have not provided documents to back up that claim.
The players’ proposal also calls for another payment of $100 million as an advance to be made in June. This is similar to the $170 million that was paid to the players this past spring, and is all that they would receive in the event that the 2020 season were to be canceled. The payment would be an advance on salary if the season is played.
The players are also willing to play a number of double headers to get more games in, and would play an off season all star game and a home run derby to raise additional revenue.
MLB Network’s Jon Heyman tweeted that the players’ proposal was “a non starter” with at least one owner, just as the owners proposal was a non starter with the players.
Players would be able to opt out of playing this season if they were considered “high risk”. Joel Sherman of the New York post tweeted that they could also opt out if family members were considered high risk, such as those with pre-existing conditions that make them ore susceptible to risk from the Coronavirus.
Players who opted to sit out the season for non health related reasons would not receive salary for the 2020 season, but would still accrue service time under the players’ proposal. The owners proposed an opt out, but no salary for players who opted out.
The proposal for expanded playoffs for two years- the owners had proposed expanding the format for one season- could bring some much needed revenue to make up for some of the lost revenue this season. Traditionalists will not like a watered down version of the playoffs, such as those in the National Hockey League or the National Basketball Association, but with a reduced regular season and the need for revenue, both sides seem agreed on expanding the format for at least one season, if not two.
Moving the end of the season back by a month is problematic for MLB, as their TV contracts for the regular season end on October 3, and then new contracts cover the post season. They most certainly want to lock those in as firmly as possible. Networks have other commitments in November that include the NFL, NBA, and NHL. There is also concern that a second wave of the pandemic could hit the nation as winter nears.
Agent Scott Boras blasted the owners’ claims that they would lose money by playing more games, saying that any losses are due to payments on other loans and investments not directly related to playing baseball. Any losses suffered by some clubs are not made worse by playing games with prorated salaries. Indeed, there is simply far more revenue in the local and national television contracts paid to MLB than the total of player salaries prorated for 82 games.
The players’ proposal opened the door for discussion about deferring salaries for the highest paid players, those making over $10 million. Although the players’ proposal would only defer salary payments if the playoffs were to be canceled, it seems that deferring salaries regardless is the most logical path to a deal. While that would not let owners shift losses onto the players, it would certainly help with any short term cash flow problems caused the the loss of revenue from gate receipts.
It might take some proposals that extend beyond the 2020 season and into the term of the next collective bargaining agreement to sweeten the deal for both sides. Adjustments to the minimum salary, arbitration or free agency cutoffs, free agent compensation could be tweaked. Most observers are expecting another slow winter for free agency which does not bode well for getting a new CBA after the 2021 season.
Both players and owners have agreed on a schedule format that would minimize travel by playing games only within the East, West, or Central regions, and they have agreed to include the designated hitter for all games this season and expand rosters to 30 players.
The two sides might be able to come to an agreement centered on about a 100 game schedule that pays the players 50 percent of their salaries, with the largest salaries being partially deferred for a season or two. But wait that’s what we proposed over two weeks ago!