Written by Chris Kubala
We’ve continued to see a back and forth between the owners and the players in major league baseball as they look to work out an agreement to get on the field in 2020. The season was originally slated to begin on March 26 but was delayed indefinitely on March 12 due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Since that point in time, we’ve seen a lot of proposals kicked around by each side and blown out of the water by the other. After last weekend, when the players said that the previous proposal by the owners “expired when they hit the send button” and then said they were done negotiating, the sides had an epiphany of sorts.
On Tuesday, commissioner Rob Manfred met with MLBPA executive director Tony Clark in Phoenix in an effort to iron out points of contention for the two sides and get the league on the field. That led to a proposal by the owners for a 60-game season with full pro-rated salaries and an expanded 16-team playoff field instead of the usual 10-team field that we’ve seen. The hopes were that the offer from the owners would have led to an agreement and a return to play this season.
Instead, it led to another counterproposal from the players on Thursday. Sources say that the players’ offer is for 70 games with full pro-rated salaries, in addition to the expanded playoff field, a universal DH, a 50/50 split of incremental TV revenues for any extra playoff games in 2021 and a minimum pool for playoff shares in 2020 based on rounds played with a maximum of $50 million if the full playoffs are completed. Clark stated in a press release Thursday: "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. We believe this offer represents the basis for an agreement on a resumption of play."
As it stands, the early response from the owners, according to sources, hasn’t been positive. A source on the owners side, when asked about how the proposal might steer the two sides to an agreement, stated that the offer “went backwards”, according to Bill Shaikin of the Los Angeles Times. Nearly immediately after several owners spoke out, the MLBPA released another statement saying that “it was unequivocally false to suggest that any tentative agreement or other agreement” was reached in Clark’s meeting with Manfred. Jeff Passan says that the league is unlikely to accept that proposal and that there will likely need further dialogue to reach an agreement. That dovetails with his previous thought process where the players would counter and the actual compromise would be somewhere in the middle.
The two sides have made up considerable ground in the last few days after weeks of negotiations going nowhere. That’s a step in the right direction with the clock running down. Ken Rosenthal thinks that a deal can and will be hammered out between the two sides in the next 48 hours. We’ll have to wait and see if that happens but in the interim, it’s best to try and keep a cautiously optimistic attitude.