MLB offers players 80 per cent of prorated salaries, 72-game season
League targeting resumption of play on July 14
Major League Baseball and its players are moving closer — to a deal or to Commissioner Rob Manfred ordering a shortened season without an agreement.
MLB offered players 80 per cent of their prorated salaries and a 72-game schedule beginning July 14 in an effort to start the pandemic-delayed season, according to details of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.
Players would get 70 per cent of their prorated salaries during the regular season and the rest for completion of the post-season under MLB's plan, given to the union on Friday.
Teams cut their proposed schedule each time they make an offer due to the calendar, unwilling to delay the World Series past October. Because salaries are tied to games, total pay for the year decreases as time goes by.
The players' last offer, on Tuesday, was for an 89-game regular season at full prorated pay. The union said it will convene a call of players to discuss its response, but players repeatedly have said they don't intend to move off their stance for full prorated pay.
"The owners' whole strategy from the beginning has been this. Play as few regular season games as possible to limit player cost as much as possible," Cincinnati pitcher Trevor Bauer tweeted. "Play as many post-season games as possible to drive revenue as high as possible. They're more than happy to play only 50 games. ... Why would players play the additional 24 games for free and burden the additional risk of injury?"
MLB proposed that players be guaranteed about $1.27 billion US in salaries including projected earned bonuses, increasing the total to $1.45 billion if the post-season is completed. The union's proposal would guarantee players $2.25 billion.
Before the new coronavirus caused opening day to be pushed back from March 26, salaries had been set to total $4 billion. Each side includes a $50 million post-season pool.
Empty ballparks an issue
Players have insisted they receive 100 per cent of their prorated salaries, the terms the sides agreed to in March. But MLB told the union that playing in empty ballparks without gate revenue would cause a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played and that teams can't afford 100 per cent prorated pay. The union has said it doubts MLB's figures but has not received sufficient financial disclosure to make a full evaluation.
Both sides say they would agree to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 in 2020 and 2021, but an agreement is needed for that to happen. MLB is to receive $787 billion from Fox, Turner and ESPN in its current post-season format. Expanded playoffs would create new games to sell, the total depending on the format agreed to.
Baseball's highest-paid players, Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole, would each be guaranteed $11.2 million and have the chance to earn $12.8 million under the new plan. They would receive $19,777,778 under the union plan, down from their original $36 million salaries this year, and $11,111,111 for 50 games at full prorated pay.
A player at the $563,500 minimum would be guaranteed $175,311 under the MLB plan with the chance to rise to $200,356. He would get $309,577 under the union proposal and $173,920 for 50 games at a full prorated rate.
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In addition, a $50 million post-season players' pool in each side's proposal would result in a full share being worth about $250,000 for the World Series winner and $170,000 for the loser. Normally, tickets fund the post-season pool.
MLB has proposed that active rosters expand to 30 for the first two weeks of the season, 28 for the next two weeks and then 26 for the rest of the year. MLB also proposed each team could keep 60 total players, including the group not active.
Players started at 114 games on May 31 and dropped to 89 on Tuesday.
"We still see no justification for paying players less than a full day's pay for a full day's work, " Meyer wrote to Halem on Tuesday in a letter obtained by the AP. "Your refusal to play any games in October remains unreasonable and unsupported. You can play more baseball games than that and you owe it to your players and fans to do so. Among other things, concerns about a second wave in October and November are apparently not going to stop other leagues from playing during those months."
'Good faith' negotiations
While the sides agreed to prorated pay in March, they also said they would engage in "good faith" negotiations over playing in empty ballparks. Halem, in his letter Friday, reminded Meyer that before the deal Manfred had been prepared to exercise the provision allowing him to suspend Uniform Player Contracts after a declaration of a national emergency.
"The association's rhetoric that players 'remain opposed to any further pay cuts' is quite misleading because players were never entitled to be paid in the first place ... when games were not being played as a result of the ongoing national emergency," Halem wrote.
Players want to extend the regular season past its scheduled end on Sept. 27 and push back the World Series deep into November.
MLB said it remains willing to suspend for this off-season the loss of amateur draft picks for teams signing qualified free agents, leaving the decision "at the election of the association." This would mark the first time since the free agent era started in 1976 that free agent compensation would be dropped, but the union said this week it was not interested.
Both sides have expressed interest in using joint funds to assist minor league players, who are not likely to have a season, and social justice initiatives.