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MLBPA 70-game proposal sets the stage for compromise

A comparison of the dueling proposals by players and owners

MLB All Star Media Availability Photo by Mark Cunningham/MLB Photos via Getty Images

The Major League Baseball Players Association countered Wednesday’s offer from owners with a proposal of a 70-game season, per multiple reports.

“We delivered to Major League Baseball today a counterproposal based on a 70-game regular season which, among a number of issues, includes expanded playoffs for both 2020 and 2021,” MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Thursday. “We believe this offer represents the basis for an agreement on resumption of play.”

Given the nature of these negotiations to date — both sides accusing the other of bad faith, one correctly so — and the various dramatic turns, it’s impossible to say until a contract is signed that we’ll have a 2020 MLB season. But, this is something.

That the owners this week finally included full pro-rated pay for the players — again, something both sides already agreed to in March — was a huge step toward a season, and the fact that players counted within a day is also promising.

That some (or all?) owners might have thought they already had a deal on Wednesday is a snag, sure (or a desperate and naive negotiating ploy). But the last few days, for the first time in this four-month process, feels like an actual negotiation for once, which would, in theory, be conducive to a deal.

“It is unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement was reached in that meeting [with Rob Manfred],” Clark said Thursday. “In fact, in conversations within the last 24 hours, Rob invited a counterproposal for more games that he would take back to the owners. We submitted that counterproposal today.”

As for where the two sides are at, a 60-game season comes in somewhere between $1.48 billion in total (per Ronald Blum at The Associated Press) and $1.51 billion (per Bill Shaikin of the LA Times and Joel Sherman of the NY Post). At 70 games, we are either around $1.757 billion (Sherman), $1.76 billion (Shaikin, rounded) or $1.728 billion (using the AP’s estimate of $4 billion in total salaries for a full season).

Either way, the difference between the two sides in regular season salary is roughly $250 million.

The other difference between the sides is postseason money, illustrated by comparing the owners’ offer (broken down succinctly by Tim Brown at Yahoo Sports) with the players offer, from Jeff Passan at ESPN here:

The owners offered $25 million in guaranteed playoff money for the players while they asked for $50 million this year, plus a split of extra postseason money next year by expanding from 10 to 16 teams. For reference, last year’s players pool of postseason money was $80.9 million. In a normal year the players’ postseason pool is derived from a share of gate receipts, but with potentially no fans in the stands, or a very limited number of fans, this October that is by the wayside.

Forgiving the salary of Tier I-III players looks the same in both proposals, meaning every player on 40-man rosters on split contracts, would get to keep their 4-percent advance from the March agreement. As Blum described it:

Players with so-called split contracts, who get paid at a lower salary rate when sent to the minor leagues, would not have to repay the advance they already received: $16,500, $30,000 or $60,000, depending on their contract, for a total of about $33 million.

So in total it looks, at first glance, like the players and owners are in the vicinity of $300 million or less apart. That works out to about $10 million per team. To a rational person, this seems close enough for the two sides to compromise. But we’ll see.