MLB, MLBPA Reportedly Still Negotiating Unresolved Player Contract Issues

Tyler Conway@jtylerconwayFeatured ColumnistJune 29, 2020

St. Louis Cardinals pitcher Andrew Miller throws during spring training baseball practice Wednesday, Feb. 12, 2020, in Jupiter, Fla. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson)
Jeff Roberson/Associated Press

Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are reportedly still in negotiations regarding contractual issues ahead of next month's scheduled start of the 2020 season. 

Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic reported the two sides still need to hammer out what to do with contract options and bonuses, among other issues. Vesting options have become a particularly sore subject, with the two sides trying to figure out a middle ground due to the reduction of games in the 2020 season.

Rosenthal reported MLB at first attempted to reduce all option salaries to a proration based on the player's 2020 salary. Using Cardinals reliever Andrew Miller as an example, the league wanted to reduce his vesting option from $12 million to $4.44 million—a proposal the players rejected.

Because the March agreement between the two sides made no mention of 2021, MLB may back off in wanting to reduce the option salaries. However, issues remain because vesting options typically require a certain number of games for the conditions to be met. Using Miller's option again as an example, Rosenthal attempted to explain the negotiations: 

Miller’s contract states that his vesting option will become guaranteed if he pitches in 110 games in the 2019 and ’20 seasons combined. He appeared in 73 games last season, which would have left him 37 games short of the total, or 23 percent of a 162-game season. The league might argue that his new target should be 23 percent of 60: 14 games. Miller might counter with different math, noting the league will play 222 of a possible 324 games in 2019-20. The corresponding percentage of 110 games is 75, just two more than where Miller currently stands.

Ownership and the union are also seeking to address what may happen in the event commissioner Rob Manfred is forced to cancel the 2020 season due to the pandemic. A "compromise" that's been discussed would allow players to earn their full 2021 options under a prorated scheduled, provided the entire 2020 season happens. However, the proration would be canceled in the event the full season is not played—essentially giving ownership a failsafe.

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Other issues include $100,000 retention bonuses typically given to players with at least six years' Major League experience who sign minor-league contracts. It is unlikely players receive those bonuses because they lack negotiating leverage due to rules put in place in regard to roster size for the 2020 season.

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