MLB and the MLBPA have been engaging in discussions about playing a truncated 2020 season. While health and logistical issues are major parts of the negotiations, the biggest rub appears to be financial — owners want players, who have already agreed to pro-rate their 2020 salaries based on games played, to take a further pay cut. Players are, understandably, reluctant to do so.
Multiple reports indicate that MLB made a their first formal proposal today on the financial arrangements, which involves players seeing their salaries being reduced on a sliding scale, with higher paid players giving up a greater percentage. Jon Heyman breaks it down on Twitter here, here and here.
There’s a couple of ways to look at this. One way is that it means the lowest paid players are suffering the least damage from this, and the majority of players are not having their salaries dropped that much. It is a lighter hit to the bulk of players than they would face if there were a flat percentage reduction applied to everyone.
The other way is that ownership is asking its players, who have already agreed to what will likely be a 50% pay cut due to their salaries being pro-rated, to take an even bigger hickey to bolster ownership’s bottom line. And they are doing so while asking the highest paid players to take the biggest percentage cuts, as if this was purposely designed to cause internecine fighting among MLBPA between the highest paid players, who can generally afford to take a stance on principle and miss getting paid for a year, and the rank-and-file, for whom giving up $250,000 or $500,000 or $1 million likely means forfeiting a big chunk of their career earnings.
If you have signed a $100 million contract and are set for life, then drawing a line in the sand over getting a big pay cut and forfeiting up to $20 million or more for 2020 is going to be more palatable than if you aren’t making those sorts of dollars, if you’ve only been in the league for a few years, and if you’re not sure how long you’ll be able to earn a good living playing baseball. Is Scott Heineman (to pick a random example of a player who didn’t get a big signing bonus and who would be making a big salary for the first time this year) supposed to want to take it in the shorts because David Price, who is set for life, and his descendents’ lives, doesn’t want to give up a big chunk of his salary?
How this will go over internally among players will be interesting to monitor. Reports are that the MLBPA is disappointed with this proposal. I expect negotiations to move quickly at this point, given a July start date to the season is being discussed, and we should have a better idea at the end of the weekend whether we will have baseball in 2020.