NEW YORK — Major League Baseball teams have proposed a 76-game regular season and up to 16 playoff clubs in a coronavirus-delayed year with players making about 75% of their prorated salaries if the postseason is completed, people familiar with the plan told The Associated Press.
The people spoke on condition of anonymity Monday because details were not announced.
MLB’s latest offer would guarantee 50% of players’ prorated salaries over the regular season. It also would allow for playoff teams to expand from 10 to as many as 16.
The proposal would eliminate all free-agent compensation for the first time since the free-agent era started in 1976. It also would forgive 20% of the $170 million in salaries already advanced to players during April and May.
Players agreed in March to a deal calling for prorated salaries that depend on games played, a deal in exchange for a guarantee of service time if the season was scrapped.
“If the players desire to accept this proposal, we need to reach an agreement by Wednesday,” Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem wrote in a letter to union negotiator Bruce Meyer that was obtained by The Associated Press. “While we understand that it is a relatively short time frame, we cannot waste any additional days if we are to have sufficient time for players to travel to spring training, conduct COVID-19 testing and education, conduct a spring training of an appropriate length, and schedule a 76-game season that ends no later than Sept. 27.”
“While we are prepared to continue discussion past Wednesday on a season with fewer than 76 games, we simply do not have enough days to schedule a season of that length unless an agreement is reached in the next 48 hours,” he added.
MLB says it can’t afford to play in ballparks without fans and on May 26 proposed an 82-game schedule and a sliding scale of pay cuts that would cause the biggest stars to lose a larger percentage of their salaries. The union countered with a 114-game schedule at prorated pay that would extend the regular season by a month through October.
MLB is worried a second wave of the virus would endanger the postseason — when MLB receives $787 million in broadcast revenue.
Teams estimate the new offer plan would guarantee $1.43 billion in compensation: $955 million in salaries, including an allowance for earned bonuses; $393 million if the postseason is played for a 20% bonus for every player with a big league contract; $50 million for the regular-season postseason pool normally funded with ticket money; and $34 million for the forgiven advances.
MLB estimates its revenue would drop from $9.73 billion last year to $2.75 billion this year with a 76-game season. Adding prorated shares of signing bonuses, option buyout, termination pay, assignment bonuses and benefits, MLB says players would get 70.2% of revenue, up from 46.7%. Also factoring in signing bonuses for amateurs in the draft this week and international players, MLB projects players would get 86.2%, up from 52.1%.
Free agent compensation has long caused bitter fights since the arbitration decision in December 1975 that struck down the reserve clause; it led to an eight-day strike during spring training in 1980 and a 50-day strike during the 1981 season. Compensation had been narrowed in recent years but still caused some free agents to have fewer bidders and to sign later.
MLB proposed dropping the loss of draft picks or international signing bonus pool allocation for signing a qualified free agent.