PHOENIX — The Major League Baseball Players Association called MLB’s economic proposal to play baseball this season “extremely disappointing,’’ and echoed by the early feedback from the powerful players in their union.
“I saw the proposal,’’ union representative Andrew Miller of the St. Louis Cardinals told USA TODAY Sports. “We want to play. It’s what we love to do. We also have principles and a responsibility to protect the rights of players. If this was truly about getting the game to the fans in 2020, we would have no issues finding that common ground.
“We will continue to work towards that, but I’m disappointed where they have started the discussion.’’
The plan, three people with knowledge of the proposal told USA TODAY Sports on Tuesday afternoon, will pay a percentage of their prorated salaries, with the players being paid the most taking the biggest salary cuts. The three persons spoke only on the condition of anonymity since they were not authorized to speak publicly since negotiations are on-going.
The veterans earning the highest salaries would be taking the biggest cuts — as much as 50% from their prorated salaries — while the younger players earning the least amount of money would receive most of their guaranteed prorated salaries. The proposal also includes a scale that would pay players a percentage of their salary at different intervals of the season, through the postseason. It also includes a larger share of postseason money to the players.
The players already agreed to be paid on a prorated basis in their March 26 agreement, but on the condition there would be fans in attendance and now travel restrictions, the owners say. The players now are being asked to accept pay cuts by as much as 75% from their original guarantees for the game’s richest players.
The proposal, one official with direct knowledge of the negotiations told USA TODAY Sports, laid out the financial details of the pay cuts players would take based off their prorated salaries, confirming an ESPN report.
Players scheduled to earn $285,000 on their prorated salary would now earn $262,000.
Players earning $1.01 million would earn $736,000.
Players earning $2.53 million would earn $1.64 million.
Players earning $5.06 million would earn $2.95 million.
Players earning $10.1 million would earn $5.1 million.
Players earning $15.2 million would earn $6.95 million.
Players earning $17.7 million would earn $7.84 million.
So a player such as ace Gerrit Cole of the New York Yankees, who originally was scheduled to earn $36 million this season, would now earn about $8 million in the half-season.
While the union bristled at the proposal, saying the pay cuts were “massive,’’ MLB did adhere to the union’s request of dropping their proposed 50-50 revenue sharing plan. The union was concerned that the revenue-sharing would lead to the introduction of a salary cap in future negotiations, while wary of further pay reductions, including the possibility of a percentage of their salaries placed in escrow.
There is a worry among several agents that the new proposal could create a division among the rank-and-file, but certainly there will be modifications, compromises and plenty of discussion with all players during these negotiations.
“Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable players,’’ Milwaukee Brewers starting pitcher Brett Anderson tweeted, “potentially look like the bad guys.’’
The owners insist that it’s necessary for the players to take a further salary reduction because they will lose money during the regular season without fans in attendance. Yet, the owners also would be guaranteed $777 million in postseason TV revenue, which would be inflated to about $1 billion with the postseason format expanded to 14 teams instead of 10. The owners have discussed sharing a portion of the money with the players.
“We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport,’’ MLB said in a statement. “We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.’’
There’s no hard deadline for the negotiations to be completed, but the two sides would likely need to reach an agreement by June 6 for the season to start on July 4. Players and coaching staffs need time to report for the resumption of spring training, which will last three weeks at a team’s home ballpark or their spring training site in Florida or Arizona.
Follow USA TODAY Sports' Bob Nightengale on Twitter @BNightengale.
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