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MLB proposes more pay cuts, with highest earners hit hardest

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks at the National

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred speaks at the National Press Club July 16, 2018 in Washington, DC.  Credit: Getty Images/Win McNamee

Two weeks into baseball restart talks and about one week before an unofficial deadline to come to an agreement, MLB finally and formally presented to the players’ union Tuesday its proposal for player pay — but the union didn’t like it, sources said.

Under the new suggestion, all players would receive extra salary cuts based on a sliding scale. The highest-paid players would lose the greatest percentage of their salaries, while the lowest-paid players would get almost all of their guaranteed money.

That disappointed the Players Association, according to sources who characterized the pay cuts as massive. The union plans to confer with players before deciding on a next step. As of Tuesday night, the sides did not have another negotiating session scheduled.

MLB and the union also remain far apart on health and safety protocols, sources said.

“We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport,” MLB said in a statement. “We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.”

MLB’s proposed system is similar to the ones implemented by teams across the leagues (and other companies across the country). The Mets, for example, imposed on their non-player employees a pay cut system that includes a 5% drop for the lowest earners and a 30% drop for the highest earners beginning June 1.

For the players, these cuts would be on top of the reductions they agreed to in March, when they accepted prorated salaries as part of a larger deal pertaining to MLB’s shutdown because of the COVID-19 pandemic. MLB hopes to play an 82-game schedule, about half of a normal 162-game season.

The union for weeks has held a hardline stance against further salary cuts, maintaining that the issue of pay was resolved in the March agreement. MLB says that deal includes language to reopen negotiations if the season is to happen without fans in the stands, as is the case now.

Sources on both sides noted that Tuesday was just the first day of negotiations on this subject, with time for the union to make a counterproposal and for the parties to settle their differences.

“This season is not looking promising,” Mets pitcher Marcus Stroman wrote on Twitter. “Keeping the mind and body ready regardless. Time to dive into some life-after-baseball projects. Hope everyone is staying safe and healthy. Brighter times remain ahead!”

Stroman added in a later tweet that he is “Praying that we get this figured out and back on the field soon. It’s hard to put into words how much I miss the game.”

Brewers pitcher Brett Anderson, also on Twitter, called MLB’s pitch an “Interesting strategy of making the best most marketable players potentially look like the bad guys” if they didn’t want to take more significant cuts than lower-paid players.

MLB’s player pay pitch did not include a revenue sharing system, a departure from its previous intentions. Earlier this month, before negotiations with the union began, owners approved a 50-50 revenue sharing split — the massively complicated details of which likely would take more time to sort out than the parties have. After that idea became public, Players Association officials characterized such a system as a nonstarter because it is too similar to a salary cap, which the union long has fought. MLB never officially presented it and now seems to have abandoned it.

The backdrop to all of this is the calendar. MLB hopes to start the season in early July, after a second spring training of about three weeks. That gives the sides an early June deadline to agree on a new deal. Monday is June 1.

Baseball's highest-paid players in 2020:

1. Mike Trout, $37,666,666
2. Gerrit Cole, $36,000,000
3. Max Scherzer, $35,920,616
4. Zack Greinke, $35,000,000

Stephen Strasburg, $35,000,000

Nolan Arenado $35,000,000
7. Justin Verlander, $33,000,000
8. Manny Machado, $32,000,000
David Price $32,000,000
10. Clayton Kershaw $31,000,000

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