NEW YORK — Major League Baseball has offered players 80% of their prorated salaries and a 72-game schedule beginning July 14 in an effort to start the pandemic-delayed season, according to details of the proposal obtained by The Associated Press.
Players would get 70% of their prorated salaries during the regular season and the rest for completion of the post-season under MLB’s plan, given to the union on Friday.
The players’ last offer, on Tuesday, was for an 89-game regular season at full prorated pay. The union said it will convene a call of players to discuss its response, but players repeatedly have said they don’t intend to move off their stance for full prorated pay.
“This represents our final proposal for a 72-game season,” Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union chief negotiator Bruce Meyer that was obtained by the AP. “You should let us know by the end of the day on June 14 whether players desire to accept it.”
MLB proposed that players be guaranteed about $1.27 billion in salaries including projected earned bonuses, increase the total to $1.45 billion if the post-season is completed. The union’s proposal would guarantee players $2.25 billion.
Before the new coronavirus caused opening day to be pushed back from March 26, salaries had been set to total $4 billion. Each side includes a $50 million post-season pool.
Players have insisted they receive 100% of their prorated salaries, the terms the sides agreed to in March. But MLB told the union that playing in empty ballparks without gate revenue would cause a loss of $640,000 for each additional game played and that teams can’t afford 100% prorated pay. The union has said it doubts MLB’s figures but has not received sufficient financial disclosure to make a full evaluation.
Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred has threatened to unilaterally call for a schedule of about 50 games if teams must pay 100% prorated salaries. That would guarantee just under $1.25 billion — close to the new offer without the post-season portion.
Both sides say they would agree to expand the playoffs from 10 teams to 16 in 2020 and 2021, but an agreement is needed for that to happen. MLB is to receive $787 billion from Fox, Turner and ESPN in its current post-season format. Expanded playoffs would create new games to sell, the total depending on the format agreed to.
Baseball’s highest-paid players, Mike Trout and Gerrit Cole, would each be guaranteed $11.2 million and have the chance to earn $12.8 million under the new plan. They would receive $19,777,778 under the union plan, down from their original $36 million salaries this year.
A player at the $563,500 minimum would be guaranteed $175,311 under the MLB plan with the chance to rise to $200,356. He would get $309,577 under the union proposal.
In addition, a $50 million post-season players’ pool in each side’s proposal would result in a full share being worth about $250,000 for the World Series winner and $170,000 for the loser. Normally, tickets fund the post-season pool.
MLB has made three proposals, starting with an 82-game schedule on May 26, then cutting it to 76 on Monday and now reducing the season further. Cole and Trout each would have been guaranteed about $5.58 million under MLB’s first proposal and about $8.72 million in the second with the chance to earn $12.19 million if the post-season is completed.
Players started at 114 games on May 31 and dropped to 89 on Tuesday.
“We still see no justification for paying players less than a full day’s pay for a full day’s work, ” Meyer wrote to Halem on Tuesday in a letter obtained by the AP. “Your refusal to play any games in October remains unreasonable and unsupported. You can play more baseball games than that and you owe it to your players and fans to do so. Among other things, concerns about a second wave in October and November are apparently not going to stop other leagues from playing during those months.”
While the sides agreed to prorated pay in March, they also said they would engage in “good faith” negotiations over playing in empty ballparks. Halem, in his letter Friday, reminded Meyer that before the deal Manfred had been prepared to exercise the provision allowing him to suspend Uniform Player Contracts after a declaration of a national emergency.
“The association’s rhetoric that players ‘remain opposed to any further pay cuts’ is quite misleading because players were never entitled to be paid in the first place … when games were not being played as a result of the ongoing national emergency,” Halem wrote.
Players want to extend the regular season past its scheduled end on Sept. 27 and push back the World Series deep into November.
“At least 12 states have experienced a rising rate of COVID-19 hospitalizations in the last week, including some states where our clubs are located,” Halem wrote. “We must disagree with your position that it is in the interests of player safety and health to both cram in as many games as possible through the scheduling of doubleheaders and complete the post-season in mid-November, a time when the Institute for Health Metrics and Evaluation is now predicting worsening COVID-19 trends.”
MLB said it remains willing to suspend for this off-season the loss of amateur draft picks for teams signing qualified free agents. The union said this week it was not interested in that.
Both sides have expressed interest in using joint funds to assist minor league players, who are not likely to have a season, and social justice initiatives.
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Ronald Blum, The Associated Press