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New MLB offer: Full prorated salaries, 60-game season

Major League BaseballCommissioner Rob Manfred generated a whole lot of buzz yesterday by proclaiming MLB and MLBPA had an agreement to agree on a 2020 MLB season return, but his proposal for a 60-game season with full prorated salaries didn’t seem to generate too much enthusiasm from players.

Still, the fact that Manfred and MLBPA union chief Tony Clark met face-to-face in Arizona Tuesday was widely seen as a major step toward agreement on a 2020 MLB season, as both sides made concessions: Manfred and the owners agreed on full prorated salaries, while Clark reportedly agreed not to file a grievance should the season resume. Previous negotiations had taken place through snarky letters and via the media, a process that most owners concluded was not working. (Indeed, the feedback from owners on a Monday conference call, including the eight or so teams that don’t want to see a season at all, was described as key in Manfred abandoning the prior negotiating tactics and adopt a more hands-on approach.)

“Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix,” Manfred said in a statement issued yesterday. “We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents. I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the clubs to move forward and I trust Tony is doing the same.” No formal response from the MLBPA yet past a terse Tweet (“Reports of an agreement are false”).

Here’s the rough outline of what MLB proposes and will be countered by the players association:

  • 60-game season. The players still want more, so don’t be surprised if it creeps toward 65.
  • Full prorated salaries.
  • 30-man rosters.
  • Expanded playoff field, to 16 teams, in 2020 and 2021.
  • Designated hitter in the National League in 2020 and 20211. It would appear MLB assumes the 2020 alignment changes will be needed in 2021 as well as the sport and the country address COVID-19 mitigation. Right now the proposal is for regional play based on 10-team divisions combining both leagues.
  • A $25-million postseason pool.
  • Potential waivers signed by participating players. Whether such waivers will actually be legally enforceable is an issue, however; most states do not treat them as being strictly binding.
  • A July 20 start. This may be changed to a Sunday, July 19 launch, to create a bigger media splash.
  • A $10-million joint fund for social justice.

The lesson: Ignore that adrenaline rush when the cadre of “insiders” rush to Twitter with their takes on the negotiations: the initial reports yesterday were considerably more optimistic than the situation warranted. Yes, solid progress was made. But we were not nearly as close to a deal as the Twitter keyboard warriors portrayed.

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