With talks taking a contentious turn over the last week, as players asked owners to tell them “when and where” to play and Rob Manfred made public statements backing away from his earlier 100% guarantee of baseball in 2020, this season seemed very much in doubt. According to Jon Heyman, the players and owners have an agreement in principle that will give players pro-rated pay while providing expanded playoffs and a waiver of a potential player grievance for failing to live up to the March 26 agreement. Heyman was also the first to report that Rob Manfred and Tony Clark had an in-person meeting yesterday, as Manfred flew to Arizona in an attempt to restart talks.
Reports of an agreement are false.
— MLBPA Communications (@MLBPA_News) June 17, 2020
Still, it’s a step in the direction of resuming play. According to Buster Olney, the offer is for 60 games at pro-rated pay. Ken Rosenthal added some specifics:
Source: MLB proposal includes:
•60 games in 70 days
•Season starting July 19th/20th
•Full Prorated Salary
•Expanded Playoffs in 2020 and 2021
•Waiving of any potential grievance
— Ken Rosenthal (@Ken_Rosenthal) June 17, 2020
Rosenthal also added that MLBPA could counter with hopes of settling somewhere around the 65-game mark. Sixty games at pro-rated pay matches the total $1.5 billion payout offered by owners previously, but this offer doesn’t appear contingent on finishing the playoffs. It might be in both parties’ interests to include some playoff money in the proposal to provide an incentive to finish the season.
MLB’s last proposal included a 30% paycut for 72 regular season games and a 20% pay cut if the playoffs were completed, with an additional $50 million in playoff pool money. The players responded by telling MLB to set the season according to the March agreement. With time to play 70 or more games, there was concern from the owners that setting a schedule of the roughly 50 games MLB had been threatening as an alternative would lead to a grievance alleging that MLB hadn’t made its “best efforts” to play as many games as possible.
In response to the union’s request, Manfred and the owners threatened to cancel the season. I thought the owners’ move seemed to be more bluster than rooted in reality.
It’s hard not to see MLB’s current threat to the cancel the season as anything other than another bluff. As I noted yesterday, MLB is being presented with the opportunity to make a good offer, a real compromise where they receive significant concessions from the players in the form of expanded playoffs, ending the potential for a grievance, and additional revenue that even MLB acknowledges is not insubstantial. According to MLB’s own figures, going from 50 to 70 games, without even accounting for national television revenues, would cost owners just $6 million per team. It’s hard to see why such a relatively small sum is holding up the potential for a meaningful baseball season, or why it’s worth threatening to cancel the season less than a week after guaranteeing the fans one was coming.
Expanded playoffs and the lack of a potential grievance would be a big win for the owners. Certainly some progress has been made given that MLB has now presented another offer, one that includes the pro-rated pay agreed to in March. It would seem the parties just need to finalize the number of games and perhaps move some playoff money around, but this is a positive step. We’ll have more once we know more.
Craig Edwards can be found on twitter @craigjedwards.