Sources: Players balk at MLB's proposal to cut salaries

Major League Baseball drew the ire of the players' union Tuesday with an economic proposal that called for a significant cut in salaries that would affect all players and particularly the game's highest paid, sources familiar with the proposal told ESPN.

The long-awaited plan, the first volley in an expected back-and-forth that will determine whether baseball returns in 2020, proposed a marginal salary structure in which the lowest-paid players would receive close to a full share of their prorated salary and the game's stars receive far less than expected.

Players immediately bristled at the proposal, which includes an 82-game schedule that would begin in early July after a 21-day spring training, sources familiar with the plan said. Teams would play three exhibition games in the final week before starting a regular season that would finish Sept. 27.

"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."

The union is expected to reject the plan and counter in the coming days with a proposal that could include a longer season, sources said.

The league's proposal, which includes bonuses if postseason games are played, offers lower-salaried players a higher percentage of their expected wages and would give some of the game's biggest stars a fractional cut of their salaries. The formula the league offered, for example, would take a player scheduled to make the league minimum ($563,500), give him a prorated number based on 82 games ($285,228) and take a 10% cut from that figure, leaving him with a $256,706 salary.

The scale goes down as salaries go up, with every dollar:

  • $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%

Under this formula, Los Angeles Angels star Mike Trout, who at $37,666,666 has the highest full-season salary in baseball this year and would make $19,065,843 on a prorated basis over 82 games, would have a base salary of $5,748,577 -- though players would be paid for only games played. Trout could make upward of $2.5 million more under the proposal if the league completes the World Series.

The proposal includes $200 million in playoff bonuses -- $25 million for the completion of the division series, $50 million for the league championship series and $125 million for the World Series. A significant amount of the postseason bonuses would go to higher-paid players, with minimum-salaried players receiving $5,512.

Although the proposal would keep a larger proportion of players close to their whole salaries -- about 65% make $1 million or less and would receive more than 80% of their prorated salaries -- players young and old objected to the plan, which they believe runs in contrast to a March agreement with the league that they believe legislated that players be paid full prorated salaries upon the return of baseball.

The league believes language in the deal calls for good-faith negotiations with the union about the economic feasibility of playing with no fans, which MLB expects to do upon a return. The league initially considered proposing a 50-50 revenue split with the players, citing massive losses due to the coronavirus pandemic. MLBPA executive director Tony Clark immediately rejected the idea, equating it to a salary cap.

New York Mets starter Marcus Stroman and Milwaukee Brewers left-hander Brett Anderson were among the players to weigh in on the proposal on social media Tuesday.

In the March deal, the league agreed to pay $170 million to players regardless of whether there is a season. That final payment to players was due Sunday. Although there are no formal negotiations set, the players and league are expected to reconvene at some point this week as a soft deadline approaches.

For the league to get a full three weeks of spring training before an early July start date, an agreement would need to be struck in early June.