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MLBPA delivers counterproposal in ongoing talks with MLB

An empty Citi Field, home of the New York Mets (Getty Images)

The Major League Baseball Players Association on May 31 delivered a formal counterproposal to the league’s proposal for further player cuts, instead looking to stage a 114-game regular season that would push the 2020 campaign well into November.

According to industry sources, the union delivered owners a proposal that would see an additional 32 regular season games played compared to the owners’ offer of an adjusted 82-game slate in the wake of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic. The players’ plan would see play begin June 30, continue through October, with playoffs to follow. More liberal use of doubleheaders would be employed to help achieve the 114 games in four months.

Critically, the MLBPA proposal would see players’ original 2020 contracts honored, and paid on a straight prorated basis on the number of regular season games actually played. That would see an original planned outlay of about $4bn in 2020 player salaries reduced to about $2.8bn.

Conversely, the sliding-scale pay plan proposed by owners last week, a measure that would see the deepest cuts for higher-paid stars, leaves about $1.2bn for players.

Much like the players’ rejection of the original management proposal, the initial union reply is due to receive swift denial from team owners. Since both sides envision starting the 2020 season somewhere around the July 4 holiday, doing so will require reaching a deal in the coming days on both economic and health-related fronts to allow enough time for a second Spring Training. With each side now having made a formal proposal, the question is whether those moves will help facilitate discussions toward an agreement.

The league and union in March reached an initial agreement on pandemic-related issues. But since that deal was predicated on the prospect of attending fans, something that won’t be possible at least at the start of any resumption of play, the two sides have since been locked in a bitter dispute on how to account for the adjusted economic reality. 

The MLBPA proposal also called for players deemed to be “high risk” of playing amid the public health crisis be given the ability to opt out and still receive service time accrual and salary. Others not deemed “high risk” but still opting out due to Covid-19 would receive the service time for the 2020, but not get paid. 

The union is also seeking a collective advance of $100m upon the resumption of Spring Training. The original March deal saw the players advanced $170m against their 2020 contracts. 

To help owners generate additional revenue, the MLBPA also proposed a series of potential enhancements, including expanded in-game use of player microphones, something typically done only in exhibition games; other broadcast boosts; and the creation of other special events. The union also offered to have some players salaries deferred to 2022 in the event there is a second wave of the virus this fall and the 2020 postseason is not able to be played.

The union offer also included two years of expanded playoffs that would see the traditional 10-team postseason field grow to 14 clubs. The league’s initial offer for expanded playoffs was just for one year, but both sides have been discussing potential shifts to the postseason since before the pandemic.