With Memorial Day upon us, there’s very little time left for MLB and the MLB Players Association to come to an agreement that allows them to start the season back up in early July. A three-week spring training would need to open by June 10 or so and players would need to be given plenty of lead time to set their affairs in order and report back to camp. That means both sides have roughly a week to iron out a shared set of parameters, the most important of which governs player pay.
Things looked pretty bleak on that front heading into the weekend, with owners crying poor and players standing firm in the stance that they’d already agreed to a pay cut by way of prorated salaries. According to a report from Chuck Garfien of NBC Sports Chicago, however, both sides are willing to make concessions in order to get a deal done quickly.
Citing a source with knowledge of the situation, Garfien wrote that the league is expected to present an amended proposal to the union on Tuesday that includes a compromise on the much-discussed 50-50 revenue split. While that could simply be a matter of keeping their books closed to the players, it represents an olive branch of sorts when it comes to truly working out a deal that helps both sides.
For their part, the players are reportedly willing to defer some of the salary they’re owed in 2020 in order to ease the immediate financial burden on owners. This could be a very important step in the negotiations because the league’s argument from the start has been that revenues from games played without fans won’t be able to support even prorated salaries. The financial modeling referenced in the first link above says player compensation would eat up 89% of total revenues in an 82-game season.
First of all, so what if the owners take a bath in that scenario. Second, there’s probably some very creative accounting involved there, since owners are saying that nearly 40% of their take comes from gate and other gameday activities. Tom Ricketts said the Cubs’ split is actually 70%, which is harder to swallow than six soda crackers in a minute.
Up to this point, media leaks like the financial modeling and MLB’s health and safety proposal seemed like part of a calculated strategy to paint the players into a corner and make them the decision-makers on whether and when the season could start. Now, however, the players may have gained back a little ground. By acquiescing to the owners’ desires to reduce immediate expenses while still maintaining their salaries, the players are offering a legitimate compromise that doesn’t hurt them at the bargaining table.
Despite the lines in the sand being reported, everything we’ve heard directly — and that is admittedly very little at this stage — indicates a desire to get the season going as soon as possible in order to play as many games as possible. Those little leaks here and there could be little more than gamesmanship or even outright fabrication, as Jon Lester indication during a live interview with 670 The Score on Saturday.
“Both sides have been great in trying to get something going,” Lester said. “I think everyone’s main concern is safety. The other stuff (money), we can kind of figure out while we go. But the players, owners and doctors all agree we want to be safe. So we do not want to rush into this thing and risk people’s health.
“MLB — from the owners’ side and the players’ side — is bending over backward to try and get this health side of it figured out.”
If this latest report is accurate, Tuesday looms very large as an indicator of whether a deal will get done in time. Should the players reject the proposal outright or at least feel the need to amend it significantly, there’s not much time to get something hammered out. But if there is truly a desire to compromise and make something happen, we’re going to see things move very quickly over the next few days.