The Major League Baseball Players Association took small steps on Sunday afternoon. Whether those will lead to the necessary giant leaps to restart this baseball season remains uncertain
In a counterproposal to the offer it received from MLB last Tuesday, the PA suggested a list of ideas featuring a 114-game regular season that would begin on June 30 and conclude on Oct. 31, a tier of salaries that could be deferred if there is no postseason and the right of any player to opt out of this potentially perilous season, according to multiple sources with knowledge of the situation.
On the surface, the proffer doesn’t appear to move the needle much. The owners have expressed a desire for far more cost containment given the chance that the entire schedule will be played without paying fans, and they don’t want to hold the postseason in November due to concerns that 1) a second wave of COVID-19 will arrive in the cooler weather; and 2) television networks would greatly prefer to air the playoffs in October. But at least this gives the two sides something to discuss.
Last Tuesday, MLB offered a sliding-scale concept by which the highest-paid players would suffer the greatest cuts to their income. The PA didn’t like that idea at all and responded with this package.
The 114-game regular season marks a significant increase from the owners’ desire to play 82 games. It would of course enable the players to make more of their salaries, which they already have agreed to accept on a prorated basis and don’t want to lower again despite language allowing for such a discussion in the two sides’ late-March agreement.
The deferrals would protect the owners against their worry of a canceled postseason and would apply to all players making $10 million or above in full-season pay. The deferred payments, with interest, would be made in November 2021 and November 2022, providing the owners with some leeway in the worst-case scenario. This could give the owners a cushion in the form of as much as $100 million.
As for players who want no part of this season, those who qualify as “high-risk” or who live with such a person, presumably someone with underlying conditions, would receive their full salary, whereas those who don’t fit that description yet still don’t want to play would give up their pay while accruing a year of service time.
To further protect the players, they would get an additional salary advance in the form of a $100 million lump sum during spring training. That would be on top of the $170 million payment the players received in the March deal.
The players also expressed a willingness to provide additional access for TV broadcasts, perhaps wearing microphones during games or participating in special programming away from the ballpark, and they also floated the possibility of partaking in new events like an All-Star Game or Home Run Derby to be held in the postseason or offseason. Both of those events typically occur in July yet clearly won’t happen this July due to the season’s delay.
The two sides did find one area of full agreement: The players offered two years of expanded playoffs. The owners also like the idea of adding two more teams from each league to the postseason because networks have demonstrated they will pay more for additional playoff series.
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