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The MLBPA’s counterproposal to owners will include a longer 2020 MLB season

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The plot thickens.

Photo by @WillByington / www.willbyington.com

Jeff Passan of ESPN and The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich have been doing yeoman work chronicling the fits and starts of attempts to get a 2020 MLB season started. I’m going to link their articles and tell you what they said in a moment, but first you should read this tweet from Washington Nationals righthander Max Scherzer, who has been active in MLBPA activities:

Can you tell the players are pretty angry about the owners’ proposed salary reductions? For some players, those reductions could top 80 percent off their original 2020 contract numbers. If you missed the article I posted Wednesday with numbers on the salary reductions Cubs players would take if the owners’ proposal were put in place, here they are again:

Estimates of Cubs 2020 salaries per owners proposal

Player 2020 salary Pro-rated salary Owners proposal Percent cut
Player 2020 salary Pro-rated salary Owners proposal Percent cut
Darvish, Yu $22,000,000 $11,135,802 $4,162,569 81.1%
Heyward, Jason $21,000,000 $10,629,629 $4,061,334 80.7%
Lester, Jon $20,000,000 $10,123,456 $3,960,100 80.2%
Bryant, Kris $18,600,000 $9,414,814 $3,747,507 79.9%
Rizzo, Anthony $16,500,000 $8,351,851 $3,428,618 79.2%
Kimbrel, Craig $16,000,000 $8,098,765 $3,352,692 79.0%
Chatwood, Tyler $13,000,000 $6,580,246 $2,897,137 77.7%
Hendricks, Kyle $12,000,000 $6,074,074 $2,745,285 77.1%
Quintana, Jose $10,500,000 $5,314,814 $2,517,507 76.0%
Baez, Javier $10,000,000 $5,061,728 $2,441,581 75.6%
Schwarber, Kyle $7,010,000 $3,548,271 $1,836,199 73.8%
Contreras, Willson $4,500,000 $2,277,778 $1,053,725 76.6%
Descalso, Daniel $2,500,000 $1,265,432 $796,520 68.1%
Almora, Albert $1,575,000 $797,222 $562,415 64.3%
Souza, Steven $1,000,000 $506,173 $416,890 58.3%
Ryan, Kyle $975,000 $493,518 $407,716 58.2%
Bote, David $960,000 $485,926 $402,211 58.1%
Tepera, Ryan $900,000 $455,556 $380,193 57.8%
Jeffress, Jeremy $850,000 $430,247 $361,844 57.4%
Winkler, Daniel $750,000 $379,630 $325,146 56.6%
Cotton, Jharel $640,000 $323,951 $291,556 54.4%
Happ, Ian $624,000 $315,852 $278,908 55.3%
Caratini, Victor $592,000 $299,654 $269,689 54.4%
Sadler, Casey $577,500 $292,315 $261,843 54.7%
Wick, Rowan $571,500 $289,278 $259,641 54.6%
Wieck, Brad $571,500 $289,278 $259,641 54.6%
Mills, Alec $569,500 $288,265 $258,907 54.5%
Hoerner, Nico $565,000 $285,988 $257,256 54.5%
Underwood, Duane $565,000 $285,988 $257,256 54.5%
Megill, Trevor $563,500 $285,228 $256,706 54.4%
$186,459,500 $94,348,507 $42,508,594 77.2%

I mean... that’s not really a serious proposal and Max Scherzer is absolutely correct when he says players should “not engage” in discussions about reductions like that. Scherzer calls for the owners to open their books and he’s right, but the chances of that happening appear to be pretty close to zero.

According to Rosenthal and Drellich, the players’ counterproposal to the league will include the idea of a longer season — presuming they get their full prorated salaries as agreed to with owners in March:

One potential compromise might be for players to be paid for 81 games while playing a season in the 100-game range — an idea some players have discussed loosely, according to a source with knowledge of those talks. Under such a plan, the players would receive full prorated salaries for a half-season, but essentially perform for “free” in the additional games.

Essentially, the players would be proposing that owners have 100 games, which would allow them to collect more money from TV games, but not have to pay players more than originally agreed to in March. But:

Deferrals might be another way to bridge the gap, as might certain financial concessions if the postseason is not played.

None of those ideas, however, will necessarily be in the union’s proposal, which might simply center on players earning more money for playing more games.

While a union counter-proposal for a longer season might not amount to a breakthrough, it could at least initiate a more active conversation – the type of conversation that needs to start if a second spring training is to begin in mid-June and the regular season in early July, as both parties intend.

That’s what has to happen here, a conversation, and it needs to happen quickly, because if the proposed “Spring Training 2.0” is to start in mid-June, the proverbial clock is ticking.

Here’s the potential pitfall of a longer season, according to Passan:

The union’s desire to play more games could be used as a chip for a negotiation to reach a return-to-play deal. For now, however, if players are being paid on a prorated basis, more games will lead to larger salaries for players. The league has balked at a longer schedule, fearful that a potential second wave of the coronavirus could wipe out the postseason — and the lucrative national television money that comes with it.

That’s certainly a legitimate concern. Passan suggests “the timeline” of re-starting spring training in mid-June and games in early July could be pushed back if negotiations stall. For many reasons, that’s not the best idea and you’d think both owners and players should have a sense of urgency about playing a 2020 season. As noted by Rosenthal and Drellich, though:

The March agreement between the parties allows for a “reasonable number of regular-season games beyond the initially scheduled end of the regular season,” seemingly creating the possibility of extending the schedule through October and playing at least part of the postseason at neutral sites to guard against inclement weather.

That does make some sense, but I’d still think that MLB would be best served by getting games in empty ballparks started as soon as possible. In the case of Cubs games played in an empty Wrigley Field, the city of Chicago would also have to start making plans to keep large groups of people away from the ballpark, first, to avoid traffic snarls, and second, to avoid potential spread of the coronavirus.

And then there’s the matter of the health and safety protocols presented to players last week. There’s still a lot to be hashed out from those proposals.

We are living in unprecedented times, My feeling remains that every stakeholder in Major League Baseball — players, owners, media — would be best served by getting an agreement in place soon and beginning play by early July. There’s a tremendous pent-up demand for live sports and MLB has the chance to lead the way. Don’t blow it.


The photo at the top of this post was taken by my friend Will Byington. You can check out all his photography here. Here’s another beautiful photo of Wrigley and the Chicago skyline by Will, taken earlier this week.

Photo by @WillByington / www.willbyington.com