Major League Baseball owners have approved a formal plan that would allow for an 82-game regular season that begins in early July, according to reports by several media outlets.
The owners will present that plan to the MLB Players Association on Tuesday. That meeting will likely mark the beginning of negotiations over a truncated 2020 season.
MLB Restart Plan Includes Expanded Playoffs, Universal DH
According to ESPN, the MLB proposal would see teams compete only against teams in their region to eliminate as much travel as possible. Each team would still play its divisional rivals, but would also compete against interleague teams in the same area.
That’s just the start of the major changes that could be in store for the 2020 season. The proposal expands the playoffs from 10 to 14 teams. A universal designated hitter rule would be implemented to reduce the injury risk for pitchers. Teams would have 30 players available for each game, with a total of 50 or more men on the team roster, a significant expansion over the current 40-man roster.
Teams would use their home stadiums, provided local and state governments approve. If those stadiums aren’t available, clubs could play at their spring training facilities or at other locations. Fans will not be in attendance, at least to start the season.
The MLBPA will likely want to negotiate on several of those points, with health concerns at the forefront of many players’ minds.
Bear with me, but it feels like we've zoomed past the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season. Here are some things I'll be looking for in the proposal…
— Obi-Sean Kenobi Doolittle (@whatwouldDOOdo) May 11, 2020
“Bear with me, but it feels like we’ve zoomed pasts the most important aspect of any MLB restart plan: health protections for players, families, staff, stadium workers and the workforce it would require to resume a season,” Washington Nationals closer Sean Doolittle wrote on Twitter before outlining many of his health concerns.
Players Ready to Fight Over Revenue Split
But the real fight will be over revenue. Players have already agreed to prorate their salaries based on the number of games teams play this season. However, owners have also included a 50/50 revenue split in their MLB restart plan.
It’s plausible that such a plan could ultimately pay players as much as, or more than, their prorated salaries would otherwise have been, according to estimates made by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. But that’s far from guaranteed, and players have concerns that go far beyond how much they will make this year.
For one, players believe that MLB owners have already agreed to the prorated salary plan. If that’s the case, they have no reason to renegotiate that point. Additionally, any sort of revenue share plan amounts to a salary cap, something the MLBPA has fiercely opposed every time one has been suggested.
“This is not the first salary cap proposal our union has received. It probably won’t be the last,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said to The Athletic. “That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past – and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days – suggests they know exactly how this will be received.”
If players and owners can reach an agreement to restart the 2020 MLB season, it needs to happen relatively soon. The owner’s proposal would start spring training on June 10 and place Opening Day sometime around July 4 weekend, meaning both sides would have to hammer out the details by the end of May to stick to that timeline.