The MLB Players Association plans to push back against any proposal to use a 50-50 revenue split to account for players' salary figures, according to The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich.
Drellich reported last Thursday that some MLB officials and team executives thought the COVID-19 pandemic required "a totally revised economic system" in order to start the 2020 season.
Because any games would almost certainly happen behind closed doors, Drellich wrote that those on MLB's side believe "to promise players a certain salary ahead of time could leave either party overly exposed to an extreme outcome."
ESPN's Jeff Passan reported owners signed off on a proposal that will be put in front of players on Tuesday. The 2020 season would begin in early July and include 82 games. However, Passan wrote that "money is at the heart of the return."
In March, MLB and the MLBPA struck an agreement that outlined a number of changes to be made because of the ongoing pandemic. As part of the deal, players will receive a prorated portion of their 2020 salaries based on the number of games staged.
Rosenthal and Drellich shared a comment from an MLB official who justified making alterations to the agreement:
"We lose money on every single game (without fans). We have to propose that they take something less than they already negotiated. We thought the most persuasive way to make that proposal was to explain: here's what we're going to make in revenue and we'll split it with you and here's how it turns into player salaries."
MLBPA executive director Tony Clark equated the idea to a salary cap:
"A system that restricts player pay based on revenues is a salary cap, period. This is not the first salary cap proposal our union has received. It probably won’t be the last.
"That the league is trying to take advantage of a global health crisis to get what they’ve failed to achieve in the past — and to anonymously negotiate through the media for the last several days — suggests they know exactly how this will be received."
Whether they explicitly blame players for any potential work stoppage, history indicates fans would direct at least some of the blame at the MLBPA despite the wide financial gulf between the two sides.
Many will argue, with good reason, that MLB owners already reached an understanding with players, and it's not as if holding games without fans only recently became a possibility.
Forbes valued all but one of MLB's 30 teams at more than $1 billion in April, too. Of course, a $1.075 billion valuation for the Cincinnati Reds doesn't indicate the tangible financial assets available to ownership, but it speaks to the general health of the league.
MLB collected a record-high $10.7 billion in revenue across 2019.
If nothing else, Rosenthal and Drellich's report points to what could be a protracted battle before baseball returns.