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MLB and the Players Association are fighting over salary reductions

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Players will take a pay cut if there is a 2020 MLB season — but it’s unclear if the two sides can agree on how big that pay cut should be.

NBA, MLB & NHL Suspend Seasons Due to Coronavirus Photo by Ezra Shaw/Getty Images

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association remain determined to agree to terms on a truncated 2020 MLB season. The coronavirus has now suspended the season by more than two months, but both sides are working hard towards finding a way to start up play.

Not surprisingly, there have been quite a handful of holdups. And right now it appears the largest one is perhaps the most common holdup in sports negotiations: money.

According to numerous reports, the league sent out its most recent financial proposal to the Players Association on Tuesday afternoon. The proposal includes tiered pay cuts, with the highest-paid players taking the largest pay cuts, and those on minimum deals and rookie scale contracts taking the smallest pay cuts. The proposal was first reported by Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

The top earners in the league could reportedly make less than 40% of their standard pay.

Not surprisingly, the Players Association is reportedly unenthused by MLB’s proposal. From ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

As word of the proposal spread, players bristled at the notion of taking further pay reductions — particularly ones that would affect the highest-paid players — after a March agreement that they believe guarantees them a full prorated share of their salaries. Under that deal, players would receive slightly more than 50% of their agreed-upon salary over an 82-game season.

Much of the battle seems to stem from vague wording in the initial agreement to suspend the season in March, when there wasn’t much discussion of playing games without fans. The Players Association believed they were agreeing to pay cuts that only applied to games that weren’t played. But now that proposals are centered around a season devoid of fans in attendance, MLB seems to believe the formerly agreed-on deal didn’t actually cover this particular situation.

With the players being the ones performing the bulk of the labor, and taking most of the health risk during a pandemic, it doesn’t seem likely that they’ll back down much on their demands. Especially since there’s still plenty of revenue to go around in TV deals and merchandise, with or without a live gate.

For the sake of baseball (and, selfishly, as someone who very much misses watching the San Francisco Giants), hopefully the two sides can find an agreement that everyone is happy with. For now, though, it would seem that we’re a ways away from a concrete plan to resume the 2020 MLB season.