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MLBPA to MLB owners: How about an 89-game season?

Fans looks on during batting practice before a spring training game between the Nationals and the Yankees.
In their latest restart proposal to MLB owners amid the coronavirus outbreak, the players are pushing for an 89-game season with prorated salaries.
(Michael Reaves / Getty Images)

In exchanging proposals this week, major league players and owners agreed the 2020 baseball season should start July 10.

That mutual target leaves the owners about one week to decide the central question remaining in negotiations: impose a season of about 50 games, or pay the players more for a longer season?

After a month of publicly fighting over billions of dollars amid a pandemic and national recession, the endgame is near.

If the final move is that Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred mandates the shorter season, that could be disastrous on three fronts: public perception of a league in which stars might sit out rather than play for one-third of their previously guaranteed salaries; the turmoil heading into negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement next year; and the risk that the owners lose a grievance and have to pay the players more anyway.

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On Tuesday, one day after owners proposed a 76-game season, players countered with an 89-game season. The gap in the number of games could be bridged easily, but the owners are almost certain to reject the players’ offer because of the gulf in the dollars.

The players’ offer would cost the owners about $2.2 billion in salary, down from about $2.9 billion from the union’s previous 114-game proposal, each with the prorated salaries called for under a March 26 agreement.

The Angels will lack a pivotal intelligence network during the MLB draft Wednesday and Thursday because they furloughed their area scouts June 1.

The players considered their offer Tuesday a significant concession, designed to stir further negotiation. The players consented to owner requests for a 16-team postseason, for players to wear microphones, and for no pay or service time for any player who chooses to sit out this season but is not at high risk for the coronavirus. In addition, the players proposed a $5-million joint fund to assist minor leaguers and charitable organizations focused on social justice initiatives.

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The owners did not consider the offer a significant concession because they never took the 114-game bid seriously, in part because because it could have extended the season to Thanksgiving amid concerns about a second wave of the coronavirus.

The owners could settle at 70 games for about $1.76 billion, although they would argue additional postseason payments would put the league at risk of spending all its revenue on players this year before accounting for other expenses. The alternative: a mandated season of about 50 games, at or below $1.4 billion.

The owners’ proposal Monday guaranteed about $1.45 billion, with a postseason bonus of another $200 million, the third consecutive offer with guarantees between $1 billion and $1.5 billion. Under the Monday offer, the owners would pay 75% of prorated pay, arguing they must pay less because they would lose money on every game fans are not allowed to attend.

The owners say their projected 2020 revenue is $2.75 billion, down from $9.73 billion last year and under their offer that 70% of this year’s revenue would go to players in salaries, bonuses and benefits. The players do not accept the owners’ financial representations and do not see why they should subsidize losses this year when, in the most recent years, revenues have risen as salaries have remained flat.


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