MLB Proposal Seeks Bigger Cuts From Premier Players
Image courtesy of © Darren Yamashita-USA TODAY SportsSince publicly asking players to consider a revenue split and going back on the already agreed upon prorated pay for 2020, Major League Baseball ownership had yet to put forth any concrete proposal. Tony Clark and the Major League Baseball Players Association were given that proposal this afternoon. Clark publicly stated that contracts would not be renegotiated, and that ownership needed to figure out a way forward for 2020.
Despite turning annual revenues near $10 billion, it was suggested today that Major League Baseball would still bring in around $3 billion in 2020 should an 80-game slate with no fans be the route taken. There's a possibility that net revenues could still dip into the red, but baseball has opportunity to at least break even as well.
With the afternoon meeting coming to a close reports of the proposal began to leak. New York Post writer Joel Sherman outlined what can be described as a sliding scale. In this structure the players making the most money would be paid the smallest percentage of their agreed upon contract. Those players who are set to make less money would retain a higher portion of the prorated dollars.
Defining it as simply and most straightforward as possible, the owners are looking for their highly compensated players to provide them relief. Gerrit Cole inked a deal with the Yankees this winter and was expecting a $36 million annual paycheck. Instead of getting that, he’d be taking a substantial cut in order for lower compensated players to receive a higher amount of their annual expected take home.
Jeff Passan of ESPN relayed some specific details of the plan on Twitter:
In a season where expanded rosters will increase the number of players making closer to the league minimum, Major League owners would get the benefit of savings from high dollar contracts while handing out minimal sums to a few more players. It’s the exact reason why service time manipulation exists, in that ownership is able to keep lower payrolls by owning a player’s low dollar years. Getting a discount on the highest contracts, having those well compensated players foot the bill, and paying a bunch of minimum salaries sounds like nothing but roses for the owners.
At the end of the day this argument is always going to be between millionaires and billionaires. For some fans, the economics will never present an opportunity for logic. While it’s difficult to insert yourself into the situation, the total sum of money shouldn’t change the optics of what is going on here. Imagine a situation in which the CEO of a company asks a manager to take a substantial cut in pay so that the intern can receive their full wages. There’s a morality issue here too, but logic doesn’t hold up across the entire example.
Also noted in Sherman’s breakdown of MLB’s proposal is what could be an underlying desire to cause cracks within the union. Most teams are represented by veteran players, many of which would fall into the highly compensated category. The group of lesser compensated players is far larger and would have no reason to oppose this deal. Those taking the hit, however, are often vocal decision makers and have earned the contracts to which they have been signed.
It should have been expected a storm was brewing between MLB and the MLBPA. With CBA expiration on the horizon, a lockout was thought potential in the not-so-distant-future. Now we have MLB ownership using the time constraints of a global pandemic as a negotiation tactic in hopes that players act quickly on a less than advantageous deal.
Suppose that Harold Steinbrenner wanted to leverage Gerrit Cole’s contract and defer the money he’ll lose to a future time, I’d imagine that would be met begrudgingly but fine. Asking players of that ilk to simply foot the bill and then pitting them against guys in the same clubhouse, I certainly can’t see it going over well.
While this is just the first proposal, it doesn't seem like a good foot to start on. Maybe the first week of June isn't a hard and fast deadline. Maybe a goal of dividing the players is of further importance. Maybe any cash flow relief is the greatest goal for ownership. We're dealing with lots of maybes here, but in unprecedented times we're likely in store for more unprecedented measures than we can imagine.
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