No one spends a long weekend like ESPN’s Jeff Passan, who dropped a lengthy article this morning on negotiations between MLB and the MLBPA as they attempt to arrive at an agreement to bring back baseball in 2020. We know the owners will provide the union with an economic plan on Tuesday, but then what?
Here are the main takeaways.
Things have to happen quickly — If there is to be baseball in 2020, both sides will need to arrive at an agreement by the end of May or the first days of June. (That would be the end of next week, which is not much time.) The $170 million advance the players received ends on Sunday, May 31. Given that there’s a lack of trust on both sides, the negotiation will be challenging.
Money is an issue — As Passan writes:
MLB, which typically brings in more than $10 billion a year in revenue, is preparing for a fraction of that. Teams, whose cash flow typically comes from gate revenues, won’t reap any of that without fans in the stands. They want the players, who in a March deal with the league agreed to a significant pay cut — they’ll be paid a prorated portion of their salary depending on the number of games played — to take an even bigger haircut. The players believe those terms are ironclad. The league believes a clause in the March agreement calls for further conversation about salary in the event of games played in empty stadiums.
The players see the owners’ offer of revenue sharing as an attempt to impose a salary cap, and the owners are worried about losing (a lot of) money. Passan raises questions about the owners’ always murky books and how little is known about them. (You can read more about the salary issues here.)
The 2021 season may be worse — If fans still cannot attend baseball games in 2021, the problem gets even worse. And don’t forget that the current collective bargaining agreement also expires in 2021. Passan points out that free agency is expected to take a significant hit:
Right now, somewhere in the neighborhood of $2.6 billion worth of contracts are guaranteed for 2021. This year, arbitration deals were worth another $700 million-plus, so even if teams are extraordinarily selective with whom they tender contracts, the arbitration market will be, at worst, worth more than $400 million. Which brings us to the tidy number of $3 billion in salaries.
So here’s a question: Would this make it more likely that Nolan Arenado remains a Rockie?
The proposed health and safety protocols have (generally) been received positively — Passan sees this as an area in which both sides may reach agreement though issues over testing remain. Teams have begun planning for facility changes that will allow social distancing. They’ve also begun hiring additional medical personnel. According to Passan, MLB may set the standard for other sports. (You can read more about MLB’s 67-page health and safety plan here. And see here for possible revisions to the proposal.)
Teams are treating their employees differently, just look at the Angels — Last night, Ken Rosenthal reported that the Angels would furlough most of their scouts and player development personnel on June 1, just before the MLB draft on June 10. (The Rockies have said they will continue supporting their employees “as long as possible.”)
Passan also notes that front offices will look very different in 2021. Player development departments are expected to shrink, especially with the anticipated contraction of MiLB. For Passan, this is a development that will have long-term consequences.
If the outlook for MLB is bad, MiLB’s is worse — Minor league players have been receiving $400/week through May 31. They have been underpaid while keeping in shape for a season that may never happen. Passan points out that MLB could continue paying the $400 to the 6,000 players who make up MiLB for $29 million over the next three months — that’s less than $1 million per team. There’s no indication that’s going to happen.
All parties involved have a lot to lose. The question now is if they can make a deal.
Will the negotiation be successful?
This poll is closed
Yes. Everyone loses if there’s no baseball.
No. The issues are complex, and there’s not enough time.