The Major League Baseball Players Association is preparing to send a counter-proposal to the league which will call for 89 games at prorated salaries and expanded playoffs, ESPN’s Jeff Passan reports (Twitter thread). It’s 25 fewer games than the 114-game proposal the union last sent and 13 games more than MLB’s 76-game proposal on Monday. Of course, the league’s proposal only guaranteed players 50 percent of their prorated salaries — plus another 25 percent should a 16-team postseason be played to completion. As such, it’s hard to envision this deal being accepted — or even considered — by the league.
The new number of games does bring the midpoint between the two proposals to 82 games — the originally proposed number by the league. And ESPN’s Jesse Rogers reports that the union proposal contains expanded 16-team playoffs in both 2020 and 2021, which would surely hold appeal to ownership. The Athletic’s Evan Drellich adds that the players’ share of the playoff pool would be set at $50MM in the event that attendance is either limited or prohibited. Should fans be able to attend — unlikely in 2020 but plausible in 2021 — the players’ share would be dependent on gate revenue, as usual.
The players are also willing to commit to “broadcast enhancements” in the regular season and the playoffs, per Rogers, which would presumably lead to players regularly being mic’ed up to interact with the broadcast team during play. They’d also concede that non-high-risk players opting not to play during the COVID-19 pandemic (e.g. players who have family members at higher risk) would not receive salary or service time. High-risk players could opt not to play and still receive both.
Tonight’s proposal also contains several new elements. Bleacher Report’s Scott Miller tweets that an All-Star Game and Home Run Derby could be held after the World Series concludes — which could create further revenue for teams. The Wall Street Journal’s Jared Diamond, meanwhile, tweets that the union proposal seeks to establish a joint, $5MM fund with the league to support minor league players and drive social justice initiatives.
Still, the biggest issue hasn’t been the potential for expanded postseason play or even the overall number of games, but rather the disagreement on player salary. The union has steadfastly insisted upon prorated salaries, while ownership has continued to push the notion that additional pay cuts are necessary (while making brash claims about team profitability). Ownership has also staunchly refused to consider playing beyond the end of October, and that’s sure to be another roadblock in this latest proposal; Rogers reports that the proposal calls for the regular season to begin on July 10 and run through Oct. 11. As Diamond observes, that would ensure that MLB playoffs don’t go up against the NBA playoffs, which are set to conclude on Oct. 12.
If the sides cannot come to an agreement on salary terms, it seems increasingly likely that commissioner Rob Manfred will implement a roughly 50-game season with prorated salaries. All of the reported components of tonight’s proposal may create optimism that an actual negotiation could finally commence, but MLB Network’s Jon Heyman gives plenty of reason for caution (Twitter link). One ownership source reacted to Heyman: “We’re nowhere.”