Report: MLB Offers Players Sliding Pay Scale in Return-to-Play Proposal

Tim Daniels@TimDanielsBRFeatured ColumnistMay 26, 2020

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred answers questions at a press conference during MLB baseball owners meetings, Thursday, Feb. 6, 2020, in Orlando, Fla. (AP Photo/John Raoux)
John Raoux/Associated Press

Major League Baseball owners reportedly approved a plan Tuesday that includes a sliding-scale compensation idea that would see the highest-earning players take the biggest pay cuts while the lowest earners would receive closer to full pay if the 2020 season takes place amid the coronavirus pandemic.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today reported the proposal, which would need approval from the MLB Players Association, is a shift from the owners' previous stance of a 50-50 revenue share.

Jon Heyman of MLB Network noted the proposal would impact certain players more than others:

Jon Heyman @JonHeyman

MLB has conveyed its first proposal to players. MLB has dropped the revenue sharing idea and is offering to pay players a percentage of their prorated pay (not the full 100 percent). It’s a sliding scale with the more expensive players taking bigger hits.

According to Jeff Passan and Jesse Rogers of ESPN, the highest-paid players could receive less than 40 percent of their full-season salaries under the proposal. The lowest-paid players would, however, receive full prorated shares.

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Potential salary cuts in MLB plan, sources tell @JesseRogersESPN and me: Full-year Proposal $563.5K $262K $1M $434K $2M $736K $5M $1.64M $10M $2.95M $15M $4.05M $20M $5.15M $25M $6.05M $30M $6.95M $35M $7.84M

The players union is "very disappointed" with the league's proposal, according to The Athletic's Evan Drellich and Ken Rosenthal:

Evan Drellich @EvanDrellich

The MLBPA is very disappointed with MLB’s economic proposal today, source tells me and @Ken_Rosenthal, calling additional cuts proposed “massive." League offered to share more playoff revenue, but on balance, those dollars are small compared to what players give up, PA believes.

Passan noted there is a "significant gap" between the two sides.

MLB and the Players Association reached a baseline agreement in March that laid the groundwork for the season, which was scheduled to start March 26.

Now the sides are trying to work out the financial details of a shortened campaign before moving forward with any plan to restart spring training.

MLB would like to begin the 2020 campaign no later Fourth of July weekend, but Nightengale noted a deal would probably need to be reached in the next 10 days to make that reality, with both sides worried about the financial impact of fanless games.

Several high-profile players have raised concerns about increasing their COVID-19 risk while also seeing a reduction in pay. Tampa Bay Rays starting pitcher Blake Snell jump-started the conversation with comments on his Twitch stream (h/t USA Today):

"Y'all got to understand, for me to take a pay cut, it's not happening, because the risk is through the roof, it's a shorter season, less pay. Yeah, man, I got to get my money. I'm not playing unless I get mine, OK? That's just the way it is for me. I'm sorry if you guys think differently, but the risk is way higher, and the money I'm making is way lower. So why would I think about doing that? So, I'm sorry."

Philadelphia Phillies outfielder Bryce Harper and Colorado Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado both agreed with the sentiment.

"He ain't lying. He's speaking the truth, bro," Harper said via Twitch. "I ain't mad at him. Somebody's gotta say it; at least he manned up and said it. Good for him. I love Snell, the guy's a beast. One of the best lefties in the game."

Arenado told Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic: "[Snell] made a lot of good points. I think he was being honest, just being real. There are some points he made that were true, that are facts. A lot of it gets misperceived. Trying to get the public to understand us, it's not going to work very well in our favor."

Former Atlanta Braves teammates Chipper Jones and Tom Glavine warned players about getting into a public battle over money, based on lessons they learned from the 1994-95 strike, per David O'Brien of The Athletic. Jones explained his stance:

"You know, the 30 million people in America that are out of work right now, they don't want to hear about millionaire baseball players bitching because they're only going to get 25 or 30 percent of their salary this year. They don't want to hear that. So, I thought (Snell's comments) could have been worded a little differently. I haven't heard anything else out of Snell, so I would imagine he probably got a phone call from Tony Clark and/or (commissioner) Rob Manfred saying, 'Hey, let's temper what we say and maybe take a different narrative and make it less about money and more about people and people's health.'"

The NBA and NHL, which were in the latter stages of their respective regular seasons when play was halted in mid-March, will likely face similar financial discussions as they attempt to resume games within the next few months.