Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association are closing the gap between their respective ideas for starting the season, raising hopes that fans will see MLB action in 2020.
The latest MLB proposal, sent to the players union on Friday afternoon, guarantees players 80% of their prorated salaries if the league plays its postseason, and 70% otherwise, according to a USA Today Sports report.
Optimism Growing as Gaps Shrink
In addition, the playoffs would expand to 16 teams rather than the normal 10. The postseason will generate at least $787 million in television revenue, with the potential for that number to grow thanks to the additional games in the expanded format.
While MLB’s proposal moves the league closer to the MLBPA position, the union will still almost certainly reject the deal. That’s because players are insisting on full, prorated play for any games played, with no additional discounts.
Still, any movement is positive, and both sides have indicated that they expect to play baseball this year – even if not every single owner or player is invested in a 2020 season.
“We’re hopeful that it will produce reciprocal movement from the players’ association, that we’ll see a number other than 100% on salary, and some recognition that 89 games, given where we are in the calendar and the course of the pandemic, is not realistic,” MLB commissioner Rob Manfred told ESPN on Wednesday.
Those comments came after the union offered an 89-game season with full prorated salaries. The MLBPA will likely submit another counterproposal by Monday, with the goal of reaching an agreement with the league by sometime next week.
Failing that, negotiations could get tense. Owners don’t want the season to stretch into November due to fears that a second wave of the COVID-19 pandemic could prevent the league from finishing the World Series.
“If we don’t get an agreement real soon, this is going to be ugly,” an anonymous executive told USA Today Sports. “Real ugly. And it’s just going to get worse.”
Manfred Confident in 2020 MLB Season
The league may be able to fall back on a nuclear option. According to a March agreement with the MLBPA, Manfred can establish a schedule so long as players earn salaries at the full prorated rate. To minimize salaries, Manfred could implement a schedule of 50 games or fewer.
However, the MLBPA would still be able to negotiate on other points, making this unilateral move less than ideal – especially since the two sides must negotiate a new collective bargaining agreement after the 2021 season. Some players may also choose to sit out the year – an option the union will almost certainly insist on – if they’ll only make a small portion of their salary.
A more likely scenario is that owners and players come to an agreement at some point in the near future, as both sides do have leverage but want to avoid the worst-case scenario. Either way, Manfred maintains that fans will see MLB games this year.
“I think at the end of the day, the most important thing … is that we play Major League Baseball in 2020,” Manfred told ESPN. “And I can tell you unequivocally, we are gonna play Major League Baseball this year.”