Unable to yet reach a return-to-play agreement, Major League Baseball has discussed playing a shorter schedule in which it would pay members of the MLB Players Association their full prorated salaries, sources familiar with the situation told ESPN.
Although MLB does not intend to propose this to the players, the possibility of implementing a schedule of around 50 games that would start in July has been considered by the league as a last resort in the event that the parties can't come to a deal, sources said.
Players have held out for a full prorated portion of their salaries, based on a March 26 agreement with the league, and in an offer Sunday proposed a 114-game schedule that would cover 70.3% of their original salaries. A 50-game schedule with full pro rata would pay the players 30.8% of that number.
Language in the March agreement appears to give commissioner Rob Manfred the right to deliver a season schedule after "good faith" discussions between the league and the union.
"Based on that feedback received from the Players Association," the agreement reads, "the Office of the Commissioner will construct and provide to the Players Association, as promptly as possible, a proposed 2020 championship season and postseason schedule (or multiple schedule options) using best efforts to play as many games as possible, while taking into account player safety and health, rescheduling needs, competitive considerations, stadium availability, and the economic feasibility of various alternatives."
In the first section of the agreement, under the "Resumption of Play" heading, it reads: "By entering into this agreement, the Office of the Commissioner, the Players Association, the Clubs, and Players recognize that each of the parties shall work in good faith to as soon as is practicable commence, play, and complete the fullest 2020 championship season and post-season that is economically feasible."
A shortened schedule would run in contrast to what the players sought in a proposal sent to the league Sunday. The league's first proposal to the union offered an 82-game schedule with significant salary cuts. Multiple players told ESPN that they would not abide a shorter schedule, with one saying, "We want to play more games, and they want to play less. We want more baseball."
The league, which has contended that it will lose money each game it plays without fans and with players making their full pro rata, has pushed for a shorter season because of fears of a second wave of the coronavirus potentially wiping out its postseason and the revenue that comes with it. The economic feasibility language in the scheduling section also could serve as a rationale from the teams for a shorter season.