It’s abundantly clear that MLB wants to have a 2020 season. It’s also abundantly clear that the MLB Players Association wants to have a 2020 season.
But it’s very unclear whether or not that season will actually happen.
The league and the Players Association have agreed on many aspects of a season, including on a lot of the safety precautions necessary with the coronavirus pandemic. But the two sides remain very far apart in terms of money.
According to ESPN’s Jeff Passan, the heart of the current landscape is this: The players are willing to have the season cut nearly in half, to an 82-game season, as long as their contracts are prorated to those 82 games, and still paid in full.
The owners, who have been fighting for a season of that length but with large paycuts for the players, are willing to pay the full prorated contracts only for a 48-game season.
According to Passan, the league has presented the Players Association with data suggesting that teams would lose a combined $640,000 per game this season, which would result in a loss of more than $460 million over the course of a 48-game season. Despite that, MLB is still pushing hard to have a season.
A big part of why is the potential money that the postseason would generate. And that, according to Passan, is part of why there’s so much pressure to reach a deal soon.
Regardless of the number of games played, MLB’s plans include a regular season that would end around Sept. 27. The league predicates the date on fears of a potential second wave of the coronavirus wiping out the playoffs, a cash cow MLB said in its financial presentation is worth nearly $800 million in media rights.
While the $460 million figure is enormous, and the losses from an 82-game season would be bigger still, the difference between the two amounts to less than $11 million per MLB team. Sure, the teams have already lost a lot of money and will continue to do so, but they’re effectively putting the season at risk over a sprinkle more money than the San Francisco Giants committed to paying Kevin Gausman this season.
We know the end points that both sides are currently holding firm on. We know that compromise from either side means further loss of money in a year that has cost both the players and the owners enormous sums of money.
It seems that MLB and the Players Association can find a middle ground on format, rules, and safety. But it’s all for not if they can’t find a middle ground with money.