This afternoon, the MLB Players Association presented the league with its counter-proposal about how to launch the 2020 season, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter links). Details of the proposal included a 114-game regular season that would end on Halloween, an opt-out clause that would allow any player to sit out the season, and a potential deferral of 2020 salaries if the postseason was canceled. Evan Drellich of The Athletic (Twitter links) has further updates, specifying that the 114-game season would begin on June 30, and that an expanded playoff structure would be in place for both the 2020 and 2021 seasons.
Players would also receive a $100MM salary advance during whatever type of training camp takes place this summer, as some ramp-up time is inevitably required in advance of the season getting underway. This $100MM payment is similar to the $170MM advance payment that players received this past March as an advance on their 2020 salaries. As per the March agreement, that $170MM in salary would be all the players would receive in the event of a canceled 2020 season. Since both payments are an advance, the total $270MM would be factored into salaries received during any 2020 regular-season games.
A separate total of $100MM in salary would deferred in the event of a canceled 2020 postseason, with that $100MM coming from player contracts worth more than $10MM (before being prorated). This money would be deferred into two payments, scheduled for November 2021 and November 2022. Players making less than $10MM wouldn’t defer any salary, so in a sense, this proposal from the players’ union has some very minor resemblance to the sliding-scale pay plan floated in the owners’ first proposal, in that the game’s higher-paid players would be taking more of a financial hit than lower-paid players. Of course, that is where the faint similarity ends, as the owners’ plan proposed that every player would take some type of a pay cut, whereas the players are still set on receiving all of their prorated salaries, if not immediately this year.
Players who are considered “high risk” candidates for COVID-19 would be able to opt out of playing this season while still receiving their entire prorated salaries. Joel Sherman of the New York Post adds that the “high risk” designation also extends to players who have spouses, children, or other live-in family members with pre-existing health conditions. For players who don’t face a “high-risk” situation but still don’t want to play in 2020, they will receive service time but no salary.
The early response to this proposal is apparently not positive from Major League Baseball’s point of view, as MLB Network’s Jon Heyman hears from an ownership source that the MLBPA’s offer is a “non-starter.” The players similarly rejected the owners’ first proposal just as rapidly, so it isn’t a surprise that the league isn’t immediately jumping on board with the first counter-offer.
The two offers differ greatly enough that the only real common point of agreement is an expanded postseason. The owners have been particularly keen on ensuring (and getting to) the playoffs as quickly as possible, due to the threat of a second COVID-19 wave and given how much of baseball’s national TV revenue is attached to postseason action. The players’ offer to defer some money in the event of a canceled 2020 postseason is at least a nod to that possibility, though the league will surely balk at just pushing the financial burden into 2021 and 2022.
The players’ idea of extending the regular season through October also won’t be a welcome idea, as the playoffs wouldn’t be concluded until the end of November. This also runs the risk of more of the baseball regular season and postseason conflicting with NFL games, which won’t bode well for Major League Baseball in terms of maximizing television ratings. (Of course, this assumes the NFL season will also proceed as currently scheduled.) One interesting wrinkle is that the players’ proposal includes a “willingness to consider” — as per Sherman — participation in such “revenue generator” events like the All-Star Game or a Home Run Derby, which could take place during the offseason or even the postseason.
As expected, the MLBPA is sticking to its stance that players should receive the prorated portions of their 2020 salaries over any sort of regular season. With a 114-game plan on the table, that will mean more salary paid (roughly 70% of the original salaries) for more regular season games, which isn’t likely to sit well with owners who are already claiming to be facing $4 billion in losses if an 82-game season was played without fans in the stands.
The only nod towards salary reduction of any sort would be if a player opted to sit out for non-health related reasons, as that player then wouldn’t be paid. While it stands to reason that most players want to get back on the field, it can’t be ruled out that a sizeable number of players might prefer to just remain at home. Even if they or their loved ones aren’t facing any elevated risk of the coronavirus, it certainly doesn’t mean that no risk exists, especially since the simple act of gathering in any sort of larger group increases the chance of contracting the disease, no matter how many proposed health and safety protocols might be in place.