Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association (MLBPA) are in their third week of talks concerning the possibility of having a shortened 2020 season around the spread of COVID-19. While league insiders have expressed optimism to CBS Sports in recent days about the chances for an agreement being reached, arguably the biggest hurdle remaining entails the two sides agreeing to a deal on player salary. The two sides discussed the issue Tuesday, but it doesn't appear like much progress was made toward a deal.
League owners reportedly approved a proposal that was then shipped to the union. Although their original intent was to put a 50-50 revenue sharing plan on the table, the owners instead are said to have asked the players to sign off on a "sliding scale of compensation." This plan would trim the salaries of players set to make the most money in 2020, according to USA Today's Bob Nightengale.
ESPN's Jeff Passan reports the highest-paid players would receive "perhaps less than 40% of their full-season salaries." While players making the league minimum might get all or most of their prorated salary (based on the number of games on the 2020 schedule), Passan notes that "the possibility of all players having to take a reduction is part of the league's proposal."
Here is the proposed pay scale:
Twelve players were scheduled to earn at least $30 million in 2020. The vast majority of MLB players are making $1 million or less, however. The Yankees, for example, have the highest projected full season payroll in the sport at $260 million, but even they had 10 players slated to make six figures on their projected 26-man roster.
Joel Sherman of the New York Post says the proposal also includes an escalator based on postseason revenue.
"We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport. We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA," an MLB source told Sherman.
The idea of a revenue-share system was a nonstarter for the union, and this plan is not going over well either. The Players Association was "very disappointed" in the new proposal and the union says owners are asking for "massive" additional pay cuts, according to The Athletic's Evan Drellich.
Over the weekend, The Athletic reported that the union intended to propose deferred payments on prorated salaries, with the exact figure hinging on how many games were played during the modified season. It stands to reason the two sides could compromise by agreeing to a sliding scale of compensation that would see the highest salaries reduced this season and paid back later through deferred payments. Sherman says MLB's and the MLBPA's next negotiation session is not yet scheduled.
MLB was originally scheduled to launch its season exactly two months ago, on March 26. The spread of COVID-19 across the country forced the league to scrap those plans two weeks prior. The prevalent school of thought is that the two sides would like to have an agreement in place sooner than later, with an eye on beginning a second "spring" training in June and the regular season sometime in early July. The postseason, meanwhile, would likely conclude no later than early November.