The MLBPA’s counter-proposal to the league’s economic plan is expected to be sent this week and, according to multiple reports, it will wholly reject the sliding scale mechanism offered Tuesday by ownership. Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich of The Athletic report that the players will not budge on prorated salaries and will instead counter with a longer season — likely in the range of 100 games. Ken Davidoff and Joel Sherman of the New York Post suggest that the proposal will include more than 100 games, with Sherman tweeting separately that the union could seek to play as many as 110 games. Doing so would seemingly require pushing regular-season play into October.
It’s not clear at this point what compromises will be offered by the Players Association. Sherman and Davidoff indicate that “many” members of the union appear open to deferring salaries beyond 2020, though, which could help ownership to avoid an upfront hit. Rosenthal and Drellich detail some other potential compromises that have been “loosely” discussed.
League owners have contended that losses without fans in attendance could be so great that it’s not worth playing games if players are paid at prorated levels. A presentation was made to the MLBPA at one point in an effort to illustrate those claims, but the players’ side has remained skeptical. ESPN’s Jeff Passan writes that the union recently submitted another request for documentation providing transparency into local and national television revenue, sponsorship revenue and projections from teams. The union also did so back in March.
Clearly, the league has not accommodated that request. Max Scherzer, one of eight players constituting the MLBPA executive subcommittee, tweeted a firm aversion to even “engag[ing] with MLB in any further compensation reductions” and adding that “MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.”
While both sides are surely motivated to eventually resume play, both have put forth offers that will obviously be rejected by the other party. The players “essentially pledged to ignore the league’s proposal and instead offer one of their own,” Passan writes, illustrating the extent of the MLBPA’s dissatisfaction with the sliding scale. And if the league contends that prorated salaries without fans would require operating at a loss on a per-game basis, owners are likely to be equally dismissive of an expanded schedule without further salary reduction.
So, is there a middle ground to be reached at all?
The players feel that the league’s proposal effectively asks them to take an average 38 percent pay cut on top of the prorated salaries to which they’ve already agreed, as FiveThirtyEight’s Travis Sawchik recently outlined (Twitter thread). The hit would’ve been larger for baseball’s best-paid players, of course; the game’s highest-paid players would earn in the $$6-7MM range prior to postseason bonuses. League-minimum and pre-arbitration players would’ve taken a lesser hit but still received only about 46 percent of their full-season salary (92 percent of their prorated salary).
Sawchik suggests a 19 percent cut from prorated salaries would be a middle ground, so it’s perhaps no surprise that The Athletic report contains speculation about players taking an 81-game prorated salary but still playing 100 total games. That arrangement would amount to players taking a 19 percent hit on top of their prorated agreement.
The strong language from Scherzer last night casts some doubt upon whether the players will genuinely consider additional cuts, especially if the union plans to truly hold firm on its request to see additional documentation from ownership. As things currently stand, it’s hard to believe the league will consider the reported union counter any more than the union considered the owners’ sliding scale. Significant ground needs to be covered before an agreement is reached.