MLB owners make first offer to players that includes full prorated salaries

Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made an offer Wednesday that includes full prorated salaries for players.
Major League Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred made an offer Wednesday that includes full prorated salaries for players.
(Rick Scuteri / Associated Press)

In what could be a final effort to launch a 2020 major league season, team owners Wednesday presented their first proposal that includes full prorated salaries for players.

The MLB proposal calls for 60 games, plus a 16-team playoff field, with a season starting July 19 or 20. The players’ union is expected to seek a longer season; the owners proposed 72 games five days earlier.

How the sides resolve that difference could determine whether the proposal leads to a swift agreement or a collapse in negotiations. The league considered the schedule set at 60 games after a meeting Tuesday between Commissioner Rob Manfred and union chief Tony Clark; the union considered the number subject to input from players.


In a statement, Manfred said he and Clark had reached a “jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement.” However, a person familiar with the matter cautioned there was “no agreement even in principle.”

The proposal followed a face-to-face meeting between Manfred and Clark on Tuesday, one day after the league suggested it might call off the season. The meeting was held at Manfred’s request, and Manfred now is expected to try to forge a consensus among owners. As of Tuesday, the Athletic reported, at least eight owners might prefer not to play at all this season — and because 75% of the 30 owners must vote in favor of a proposal to approve it, eight votes would kill it.

“Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix,” Manfred said in a statement. “We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents. I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the clubs to move forward and I trust Tony is doing the same.”

In three earlier proposals, owners insisted upon a pay cut below prorated salaries, arguing that players were obligated to take less money since owners would make less money on games played without fans. But the March 26 agreement did not require that, and players held firm.

On Saturday, the union rejected the owners’ third offer, saying further negotiation would be “futile” and demanding that owners “tell us when and where” to report for work. The March 26 agreement authorized Manfred to dictate the number of games, and a 48-game season was referenced in correspondence between the league office and the players’ union.

However, after owners met via conference call Monday, they prioritized a negotiated settlement over the imposition of a season, in part because they feared players would respond with a grievance that could have made the owners vulnerable to potential liability in the range of $1 billion.


In Wednesday’s proposal, the league asked the union to waive any grievance. The league also included the adoption of expanded playoffs and a designated hitter in each league in the 2020 and 2021 seasons, after which the collective bargaining agreement expires.

The two sides still must reach agreement on a health and safety protocol and determine whether players would sign an acknowledgment of risk, given the coronavirus pandemic, or would waive any legal recourse should they contract the virus.

Manfred and Clark had appeared to recede into the background last week as the lead negotiator for each side traded nasty letters.

But, in the same ESPN interview Monday in which Manfred retreated from his prediction that the chances of a 2020 season were 100%, he also said something that owners to that point had not proposed: “common ground on the idea that we were going to pay the players’ full prorated salary.”

On Tuesday, New York Yankees President Randy Levine, who previously had insisted that the agreement required players to discount their salaries, told the New York Post: “Under the March 26 agreement, the commissioner has the right to schedule the games as long as the players are paid pro rata.”

That set the stage for the negotiators to step aside, for Manfred and Clark to meet Tuesday, and for the proposal Wednesday that could get a long-delayed season off the ground, with players reporting to a second spring training as soon as next week.

While baseball would have blown its chance at a grand July 4 opening day, a July 19 or 20 start still would bring MLB back ahead of the NBA’s planned July 30 restart.

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