Red Sox News: MLBPA offer inches closer to deal with owners

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images) /

The MLBPA’s counter-proposal provides hope for a Red Sox season.

We’re still waiting to find out when or if the Boston Red Sox will play this season as owners remain engaged in a labor dispute with the player’s union. While it seems as though the sides remain miles apart, there are signs that progress is being made.

The MLB Player’s Association delivered a proposal to the league on Sunday, according to Evan Drellich of The Athletic. The demands were for a 114-game season beginning June 30 and running through the end of October, two years of expanded playoffs, $100 million in deferred money, and the option for players to opt-out of the season if they feel it’s unsafe to play.

The offer is almost certain to be shot down by the owners but that’s not necessarily a reason to be discouraged. This is a negotiation. There is bound to be some back-and-forth before the sides can reach a middle ground. It was only a few days ago that Max Scherzer suggested that the players had no reason to engage with the league if owners continued to insist on further pay cuts. At least the sides are still talking.

Owners are pushing for a shorter 82-game schedule with additional salary reduction beyond the prorated amount based on games played. Players are adamant about receiving their full prorated amount without further pay cuts. While it seems the MLBPA’s counter-offer went in the complete opposite direction from the league’s latest proposal, it does show us the potential to find common ground somewhere in between.

For instance, players might eventually cave to the tiered payroll reduction plan proposed by the owners if the deal includes the 114 game schedule they asked for, increasing the amount of prorated pay they receive. If owners believe they would benefit more from a shorter schedule then getting their wish may mean they won’t get the additional salary reductions they asked for. Or at least reductions that aren’t nearly as steep.

An expanded playoff format provides an opportunity for more revenue. The nationally televised playoff games provide a much larger financial boost than the local deals that many small market clubs rely on. Without the ability to generate revenue by selling tickets, the money from TV becomes even more important. Therefore, it makes sense to increase the number of nationally televised playoff games that produce the most revenue.

According to MLB Network’s Jon Heyman, the deferred money the players asked for is only in the event that the postseason is cancelled. That may not be enough to satisfy the owners but the concept of deferring money could be appealing to both sides. Deferring money for a couple of years down the line would help teams stay above water during this financial crisis but players would eventually get paid once the economy stabilizes and teams are flush with more cash.

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The option for players to opt-out of playing this season helps alleviate concerns that some may have about safety. If they aren’t comfortable playing baseball in a world still plagued by the coronavirus, they shouldn’t be forced to. They should still have this year counted toward service time, as they would if the season were cancelled, but they wouldn’t get paid.

Players can take the year off if they don’t want to risk exposure to the virus but still move a year closer to arbitration or free agency. Owners save a bit of money by not paying anyone who isn’t playing, negating at least a portion of the need to further reduce salaries.

There is still a long way to go before these sides can reach an agreement but the player’s proposal includes some interesting ideas. They won’t get everything they want but owners can pick and choose pieces that they are amenable to and incorporate it into their next offer. It’s a small step but it’s still a step in the right direction.

The owners and players may not agree on much but one thing they have in common is that a canceled season hurts both sides. There may be a few small market owners who would rather blow up the season rather than play without fans but they are in the minority and would almost certainly be overruled by the other owners.

Next. Predicting Red Sox 2020 starting rotation. dark

Time is running out to reach an agreement to start the season by the end of this month or early July. Both sides have provided some feasible options. It’s now a matter of meeting in the middle. We’ll learn a lot by how the owners react. They won’t accept the player’s proposal but the key will be whether or not they are willing to incorporate some of the MLBPA’s ideas in their next offer or if they will ignore them by stubbornly sticking to their original plan. If it’s the former, there may still be hope for salvaging the 2020 season.