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Season in Jeopardy as MLBPA Rejects 80% Salary Cut

The owners proposed a sliding wage scale that pits lower paid players against superstars

Kris LaGrange's picture
May 27, 2020

With states now reopening, fans are wondering when sports will return. While the NBA and NHL are in talks to finish their season, possibly in a neutral location like Disney or Las Vegas, Major League Baseball is still figuring out how to start their season.

The main reason progress hasn't been made is that the owners are claiming that a season without fans will lead to huge losses for the billionaires that run the teams. To reduce these losses the owners' have released a plan that includes significant pay cuts. The sliding scale of cuts would hit the league's highest-paid players especially hard. The plan would include an 82-game season that would start in early July after a 21-day Spring Training. The season would end on September 27th. In terms of salaries, players would be paid on a sliding scale that would hit different income brackets with different size losses.  Players that are paid under $1 million would see the smallest cut while superstars making over $20 million would only get 20% of their salary. Below is the salary breakdown:

  • $563,501 to $1 million paid at 72.5%
  • $1,000,001 to $5 million paid at 50%
  • $5,000,001 to $10 million paid at 40%
  • $10,000,001 to $20 million paid at 30%
  • $20,000,001 and up paid at 20%

For Los Angeles Angel's superstar Mike Trout, who at $37,666,666 has the highest full-season salary in baseball this year, his salary would drop to $5,748,577 under the owners' proposal. If he was paid his regular per game rate for the 82 game season, he would have made  $19,065,843. Players would also only be paid for games they play which would reduce their salaries even further. There is also $200 million that is being set aside for playoff bonuses. The division of these bonuses would favor higher-paid players with minimum salaried players getting just $5,512 from the bonus.

The agreement is clearly geared towards splitting the unions' support for a deal by winning support among players making less than $1 million. According to ESPN, about 65% of the league is currently making less than $1 million a year. A similar strategy was employed by the NFL in their recent bargaining.

Almost immediately, players and the MLB Players Association expressed their displeasure with the deal. "The proposal involves massive additional pay cuts and the union is extremely disappointed," the MLB Players Association said in a statement to ESPN's Enrique Rojas. "We're also far apart on health and safety protocols."

Players believe that this proposal is against the agreement that they reached in March with the league. That agreement set aside $170 million to pay the players regardless of whether there was a season or not. Players also took to Twitter to express their displeasure about potentially losing 80% of their income.

While the owners are trying to portray the players as rich and entitled, the MLBPA is standing firm. Their big concern is that owners are using the pandemic to set a precedent for lowering salaries and potentially instituting a salary cap. With the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) set to expire in 2021, the players are sticking to their guns and are refusing to give away the farm to prevent owners from gaining the upper hand.

The players are expected to issue a counterproposal in the next few days. If the owners want the season to start in July and spring training to start in early June, they will need to come to the table with a real plan that fairly compensates these world-class athletes for the games they will play.

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