Author of “The Arm: Inside the Billion-Dollar Mystery of the Most Valuable Commodity in Sports”
The Major League Baseball Players Association expects to counter MLB’s economic proposal by the end of this week with a plan that includes more than 100 games and a guarantee of full prorated salaries for the 2020 season, sources familiar with union discussions told ESPN.
The disagreement over economics has ratcheted up in recent days after the league’s first proposal Tuesday rankled players. On multiple phone calls Wednesday, players essentially pledged to ignore the league’s proposal and instead offer one of their own, according to sources familiar with the calls.
Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, one of eight players on the MLBPA’s powerful executive subcommittee, tweeted Wednesday that the significant pay cuts in the league’s proposal would not be accepted and the union would remain committed to players receiving their full prorated salaries.
“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no need to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions,” Scherzer wrote.
MLB’s proposal called for pay reductions on top of players’ already prorated salaries, which would be scaled to reflect the number of games played. In MLB’s 82-game proposal, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout would be paid less than $6 million, compared to the $19 million-plus he would receive prorated. Although the pay cuts would be less severe for a large swath of lower-paid players, the union’s rancor was clear and immediate.
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.
In a presentation to players, MLB said it would lose a significant amount of money if games are played in 2020 and players receive their full pro rata salary. The union has held firm that a March 27 agreement between the parties ensures the players their prorated share, while the league believes that language in the agreement calls for a good-faith negotiation in the event that games are played in empty stadiums.
The union remains skeptical of the data the league shared that showed significant losses across the sport and recently submitted additional document requests to the league in search of information about local television revenue, national television revenue, sponsorship revenue and projections from teams.
“We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received,” Scherzer wrote in his statement. “I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.”
MLB has proposed playing in front of no fans in games starting the first week in July, though that timeline could be pushed back if labor discussions stretch on and preclude spring training 2.0 starting in mid-June.