Among many things that can be said about Scott Boras, one indisputable fact is that he always tries to get the most possible money for his clients. As such, he’s been front and center when it comes to the ongoing dispute on how players will be paid for a 2020 season that is still in doubt. In an email obtained by the Associated Press, Boras urged his clients to stand firm and not give in to the owners.
“Remember, games cannot be played without you,” Boras wrote. “Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.”
The myriad financial issues faced by owners are really just estimates and conjecture at this point, since they’re understandably reluctant to open up their books to share exactly how the finances work out. That’s one of the sticking points in the negotiation, with owners saying they could forfeit as much as 80% of their revenues if games are played in empty stadiums.
Players aren’t just going to trust that blindly, nor should they, which is why the recent proposal to pay salaries on a sliding scale was quickly rejected. The owners’ proposal would have amounted to roughly 25% of full-season salaries being paid, or less than half of the prorated deal the players believe they agreed to in March.
“Owners are asking for more salary cuts to bail them out of the investment decisions they have made,” Boras said. “If this was just about baseball, playing games would give the owners enough money to pay the players their full prorated salaries and run the baseball organization.
“The owners’ current problem is a result of the money they borrowed when they purchased their franchises, renovated their stadiums or developed land around their ballparks. This type of financing is allowed and encouraged by MLB because it has resulted in significant franchise valuations.”
That’s what it really comes down to, since owners didn’t sock away the extra money they took in during MLB’s years of increasing record revenues. Rather, they put that money back into the infrastructure around their ballparks, almost like airlines and other corporations using bailouts to buy back stock. We’re not comparing apples to apples there, but the fact remains that MLB owners are not as liquid as their values might indicates.
Now they are asking players to take cuts in order to help them pay down the franchise debt, which Boras is clearly calling out here. The proposal to make big cuts to the highest-paid players’ salaries would result in a savings of around $1.1 billion when compared to paying prorated salaries over 82 games, with the Cubs among those teams that would save the most.
According to Cubs Insider’s math, Chicago’s National League ballclub would save almost $52 million this season, a roughly 55% savings over the prorated model. That’s not exactly chump change, especially in the current market. But when the players are being disproportionately impacted, they’re not about to feel sorry for owners.
The only way this would work is if the players all got a piece of the profits from all the things their talent helped teams to build. Not every team is the Cubs, with literally billions of dollars invested in the ballpark and surrounding area over the last half-decade, but franchise values have risen at an incredible rate and players don’t reap the rewards from that.
Yes, salaries are higher than they used to be, but the average player was paid less in 2019 than in 2018. Taking additional cuts now would accelerate that downward trend and put players in a very difficult position when it comes to arbitration and free agency next year and beyond.
“Owners now want players to take additional pay cuts to help them pay these loans. They want a bailout,” Boras wrote. “They are not offering players a share of the stadiums, ballpark villages or the club itself, even though salary reductions would help owners pay for these valuable franchise assets. These billionaires want the money for free. No bank would do that. Banks demand loans be repaid with interest. Players should be entitled to the same respect.”