MLB owners float idea of playing fewer games while agreeing to pay prorated salaries
For weeks now, major league players have insisted on prorated salaries for any games played this year. After players shot down the first two concepts owners suggested to change the salary structure, owners appeared ready Monday to concede on prorated salaries by shortening the season so radically that player payout would barely change from what the owners last offered.
On the day after the players pitched a 114-game season with prorated salaries, the owners considered a 50-game season under the same terms. The number of games halfway between 114 and 50 is 82 — the very number of games the owners pitched last week — but splitting the financial difference in half might not be so easy.
The union did agree Sunday to a radical realignment this season, in which the traditional divisional alignment would be scrapped, and whatever schedule is agreed to would be played completely in a geographic region. The Dodgers and Angels would play in a 10-team western division, along with the other teams in the National League West and American League West. An industry source confirmed the development, which was first reported Monday by the Boston Globe.
The owners had not presented a 50-game proposal to the union or even committed to it among themselves as of late Monday, and they remain willing to consider other options, but the commissioner’s office believes it has the unilateral right to set the length of schedule so long as it pays players a prorated salary.
The players were dismayed to hear that after the commissioner repeatedly had invoked the need to get back on the field to provide entertainment for homebound Americans during a time of crisis. The owners now might prefer one-third of a season to one-half of a season. Union officials also expressed frustration that owners have floated three proposals publicly but made one actual proposal to the union.
A counter-proposal submitted Sunday by the MLBPA calls for a 114-game season that would start June 30 and end Oct. 31, followed by a 14-team postseason.
The players collectively would make about $3.8 billion in the traditional 162-game season and about $2.7 billion under the offer the union pitched Sunday, according to a Spotrac study.
Under the sliding scale of pay cuts beyond prorated salaries the owners proposed last week, players would have made about $933 million over an 82-game season. With prorated salaries over 50 games, players would make about $1.17 billion.
With teams hoping to open training camps this month and start the season next month, both sides have started to put sweeteners on the table, including an expanded postseason, easing up on the luxury tax and salary deferrals.
The number of games is on the table too: ESPN, which first reported the development, said the owners could go as high as 60 games. However, a source told The Times the number of games could go as low as 42, in which case players would make about $985 million.
On March 26, the parties agreed that players would be paid prorated salaries for any games played this season, so a half-season would mean a 50% pay cut.
The Dodgers and Angels are among at least eight MLB teams to increase baseball activities in the last week at their home stadiums and spring training sites.
The owners say that language did not envision games played without fans. They need players to take an additional pay cut, they say, or else they would lose more money by playing those games than by not playing them. The players say the owners have not provided sufficient documentation to support that assertion.
The owners publicly floated a 50-50 revenue-sharing plan without actually proposing it — the blowback made a formal proposal moot — and then proposed a sliding scale of pay cuts, which the players rejected.
Times staff writer Jorge Castillo contributed to this report.
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