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MLB owners’ latest offer to players is more of the same

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A 76-game season and expanded playoffs, but with greater risk

An official Rawlings Major League Baseball for the 2020 Major League Baseball season. Photo by Tim Clayton/Corbis via Getty Images

MLB owners made a reported offer to the players on Monday, one that calls for a 76-game season and a pay cut for the players, but with caveats that simply enforce the opposite ends of the spectrum both sides are on.

The two biggest points that signify movement from the owners, appear to be that the players could earn a combined $200 million more than the threatened but not yet proposed 50-game season at pro-rated salaries, and that owners would remove draft pick compensation for free agents that turned down qualifying offers.

However, there are potential problems with both points. One, as described by Bill Shaikin at the Los Angeles Times:

But the owners’ proposal translates to the players getting 75% of prorated salaries, with a critical caveat: If the postseason is not completed for any reason — most likely a second wave of the coronavirus — the players would instead get 50% of prorated salaries. That would erase the collective $200 million gain.

As for the qualifying offer, good luck predicting this year’s free agent market. But one thing seems certain: it’s going to be bleak. Owners are balking at paying contracts that are already signed. Good luck getting them to commit to any sort of long-term commitment this winter.

There is some value to removing draft-pick compensation, even for a year, but it’s just hard to see how much.

When it comes down to it, this owners proposal is similar to all of their others, but there is at least some movement:

  • On May 26, the owners proposed an 82-game season with a sliding scale of salary cuts beyond the pro-rated share agreed to by the players. From the Associated Press: “MLB estimates 2020 player salaries would drop from roughly $4 billion to $1.23 billion, including the postseason bonus pool.” The players would receive, in total, just over 30 percent of their season-long salaries.
  • On June 3 the owners rejected the players’ 114-game proposal, and said they would not make another offer (today’s subsequent offer is a reminder that a lot of this is just posturing). MLB threatened, but did not formally offer a shortened season of about 50 games. Jeff Passan at ESPN reported the league is looking at 48 games at pro-rated pay. That’s just under 30 percent of the players’ season-long salaries.
  • Today’s offer maxes out at 75 percent of pro-rated pay for a 76-game season, which comes to roughly 35 percent of the players’ season-long salaries.

It’s at least something, but again that is the best-case scenario.

Other points of the offer:

  • Playoffs would expand from 10 to 16 teams this year:
  • MLB would “forgive 20% of the $170 million in salaries already advanced to players during April and May,” per Ronald Blum of the Associated Press.
  • Perhaps the biggest hurdle to a deal is MLB wanting players to assume more risk (and again, at lower pay) during a pandemic:

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The players, as you might have guessed, are not enthused with this offer from the owners.