The Major League Baseball Players Association responded to MLB’s return-to-play proposal with a plan of their own, which would include a longer season, but wouldn’t authorize any further pay cuts beyond the prorated salaries that were agreed to in March.
ESPN reported that players expect owners to reject their offer, but hope that it will serve as a jumping-off point for further negotiations.
Players Agree to Expanded Playoffs, Potential Deferments
The MLBPA proposal includes a 114-game season that would begin on June 30 and end on Oct. 31. Owners will likely say that a longer season is a non-starter. They claim they will lose money every time a game is played without fans in the stands, though some independent analysts have questioned those figures.
Owners may receive other aspects of the plan with interest. Players have proposed $100 million in salary deferrals if the league cancels the playoffs. Only players with salaries of $10 million or more would defer portions of their pay, and the deferred amounts would accrue interest.
The players’ proposal includes expanded 14-team playoffs for two seasons, according to sources cited by multiple media outlets. Players also agreed to hold offseason events, including an All-Star Game and/or Home Run Derby, to generate more revenue, and committed to wearing microphones on the field to enhance broadcasts without fans in attendance.
MLBPA Wants Universal Opt-Out Option for 2020
While financial issues have been at the heart of the dispute over restarting the MLB season, health concerns have also stood out as a major sticking point. The union proposal would allow all players to opt-out of the season if they wish to do so, with high-risk players still receiving their salaries, and all players getting credit for service time. That’s more extensive than the league plan, which includes only an unpaid opt-out for high-risk players.
On paper, the two sides remain miles apart. Owners proposed tiered salary cuts for players, with the highest salary bracket being cut by 80%, then being prorated beyond that for the shortened season. Some players could earn as little as 20% or less of their initial salaries under that plan.
According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, sources say that some owners would be willing to shut down the season in order to save money. Some franchises have taken actions that seem to reflect this position. Those include massive cuts to minor league rosters, furloughing employees, and suspensions to employee 401K plans – moves that have occurred, but which have been far from universal across baseball.
If players and owners fail to make progress toward an agreement soon, the 2020 MLB season will be in jeopardy. The league has floated an early July date for starting the season, but players would require at least a shortened preseason to safely transition to real games.