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MLB makes new offer for 76-game regular season

An empty Guaranteed Rate Field in Chicago, home of the Chicago White Sox (Jose M. Osorio/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

Major League Baseball has made another proposal to the MLB Players Association to restart the 2020 season, this time looking to stage a 76-game regular season that would see players earn about 75 per cent of their prorated salaries.

As the league and union continue to battle the effects of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, MLB’s latest proposal is an increase in the number of games from its prior push to impose a 50-game regular season. But the current offer guarantees only 50 per cent of the players’ prorated salaries, rising to the 75 per cent if an expanded postseason with as many as 16 teams is completed.

The plan would pay about $1.43bn in total compensation to the players, up somewhat from the owners’ previous sliding-scale pay offer, but still far below the $2.8bn in player payments contemplated in a union proposal last week of a 114-game regular season that was based on full prorating of players’ 2020 contracts.

Ownership’s latest proposal also contained three other potentially impactful wrinkles to players: ending the removal of draft picks for teams signing top free agents, the elimination of qualifying offers for free agent players, and the forgiveness of some of the $170m in salaries already advanced this spring to players as part of a prior pandemic-related agreement. 

The union has not yet formally responded, while the league is looking for a response to the latest proposal by June 10. But some players are, not surprisingly, already taking a skeptical view to management’s latest salvo.

“There’s social unrest in our country amid a global pandemic. Baseball won’t solve those problems, but maybe it could help,” tweeted Washington Nationals reliever Sean Doolittle. “We’ve been staying ready and we proposed 114 games – to protect the integrity of the game, to give back to our fans and cities, and because we want to play. It’s frustrating to have a public labor dispute when there’s so much hardship. I hate it. But we have an obligation to future players to do right by them. We want to play. We also have make sure that future players won’t be paying for any concessions we make.”

An expanded postseason is also core to the ongoing discussions. Both sides have discussed enlarging the playoffs from the current 10-team fields, particularly as a bigger field would create more games and generate more revenue to help compensate for losses from games played without attending fans. And management’s latest offer contemplates as many as 16 teams in this year’s playoffs. But expanding the playoffs will require union approval, and to date, that component has been discussed only in the context of a larger agreement.

There is no hard deadline for the sides to make a deal. But a previously sought July 4 restart of play is now all but impossible given the time required to stage a second Spring Training and allow players to return to game shape. Pressure is also continuing to rise around MLB as many other US team sports properties including the National Basketball Association, National Hockey League, and Major League Soccer are progressing on their return-to-play plans.

A 50-game MLB season that would end in late September and allow for playoffs in October as in prior years would require starting games by early August.