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MLB players propose 89 game schedule, prorated salaries, expanded playoffs

Owners are expected to reject the latest offer as the two sides draw closer

Detroit Tigers v Houston Astros Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images

The Major league baseball players’ association quickly made a counter offer to MLB owners on Tuesday, proposing an 89 game schedule. The plan would pay the players prorated salaries, or about 55 percent of their full salaries, which the players have insisted was agreed by the two sides last March. The proposal includes expanding playoffs to 16 teams for two seasons, which would bring more revenue to MLB. This offer comes just one day after MLB’s latest proposal.

The proposal takes 25 games off the players’ previous offer of 114 games, and moves their offer within 13 games of the owners’ proposal for a 76 game season. The players also have accepted the owners’ proposal that would pay them a share of gate receipts for the post season or a pool of $50 million if there are no fans attending post season games.

The main sticking point continues to be the owners’ insistence that the players accept less than full prorated salaries, while the players insist on receiving prorated salaries for the number of regular season games played. The owners’ last offer would have paid the players 75 percent of prorated salaries, or 35.1 percent of full salaries, but only if post season games were played. Otherwise, they would receive just 50 percent of prorated salaries, which comes to about 23.5 percent of their full salaries for 76 games.

The owners have threatened to unilaterally impose a shortened season of as few as 48 games in the absence of an agreement, based on the claim that most clubs would be losing money by playing more games. The players are skeptical of that claim and have demanded to see documentation which the owners are unwilling to provide.

This chart shows where negotiations stand after the latest offers:

Where they stand

Issue Players' proposal Owners' proposal Unilateral action
Issue Players' proposal Owners' proposal Unilateral action
Number of games 89 76 50 +
Dates July 10- Oct 11 July 10- Sep 27 TBD
Salary 100% prorated 75 or 50% prorated 100% prorated
Pct of full salary 54.9 35.1%/ 23.4% 30.8%+
Total salaries 2.2 billion 938M- 1.4 Billion 1.23 billion
Playoffs 16 teams in 2020, 2021 16 teams in 2020 10 teams
Add playoff revenue 225 million x 2 years 225 million 0
Opt out for health salary + service service time TBD
Opt out non health no salary or service no salary or service no salary or service
Universal DH Yes Yes Yes
Regional schedule Yes Yes Yes
Grievance filed No No Likely

The players’ latest proposal reduces the amount of salary to be paid by $600 million from their last offer. The owners’ most recent proposal potentially increases total salary by $200 million, but the guaranteed salary is $241 million less than their previous offer.

The March agreement allows the owners to propose a schedule for “as many games as possible”. So in essence the owners would be saying that more games are not economically possible at full prorated salary. That claim would almost surely result in a grievance being filed by the players, requiring the owners to open their books to prove their claim as the two sides head into negotiations on a new collective bargaining agreement.

A short schedule also causes problems for some of MLB’s broadcast partners. ESPN pays $700 million per year for about 100 regular season games. Their contract with MLB expires after the 2021 season. Perhaps any offset could be worked out as part of the next contract. Regional sports networks carry almost exclusively regular season games, and MLB has suggested that they would lose revenue on a prorated basis. But then, two thirds of MLB clubs own a stake in their RSN’s. Also, those networks earn about 90 percent of their revenue from subscriber fees, rather than advertising, so they’re not taking a direct loss by losing games.

Players have also accepted the owners’ position with respect to players who opt out without having legitimate health concerns due to the coronavirus. Those players would not receive salary nor service time. The players propose that those who opt out due to being high risk would receive both service time and salary. The owners are willing to give service time, but not salary if they opt out. There is also no agreement in the case where players have a family member or live with someone who is high risk should they contract the virus.

There was no mention of the owners’ offer to eliminate draft pick compensation for players who decline a qualifying offer and sign with another team for next season. That would affect relatively few players at the top end of the pay scale. There is also no mention of deferred salaries, which the players had included in their last proposal in the event that the post season was canceled.

The proposal calls for the regular season to begin on July 10 and run through Oct. 11. In order to start the season by July 4, the target date to resume spring training was June 10. Owners have insisted on completing the regular season by September 27.

The owners are already said to be poised to reject the players’ latest proposal, even as they inch closer to a negotiated settlement. The two sides are now separated by 13 games and 25 percent of prorated salary, or about 20 percent of full salaries. The owners’ most recent proposal to tie one third of the players’ salary to the post season remains an obstacle.

The difference in player salaries from $2.2 billion to $1.4 billion is $800 million.

Two seasons of expanded post season revenue at $225 million each could narrow that gap to $350 million.

Players’ salaries cost MLB just under $25 million per game for all 30 teams. Cutting the schedule from 89 to 81 games would cost the players $175 million, which is exactly half of that gap. And it would get the season finished by about October 4.