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Reports: Baseball's highest-paid players would take huge cuts under MLB's economic proposal

Reds stars stand to lose millions
Joey_Votto_Trevor_Bauer_Mike_Moustakas.jpg
Posted at 7:39 PM, May 26, 2020
and last updated 2020-05-27 19:27:34-04

NEW YORK — Baseball's highest-paid players would be hit hardest under a six-tier, sliding-scale salary proposal by big-league teams that players found “extremely disappointing” Tuesday.

Among the highest-paid Reds, first baseman Joey Votto ($25 million contract) would take a whopping cut to just over $2.5 million under MLB's new proposal for an 82-game season (not counting postseason bonuses).

Pitcher Trevor Bauer ($17.5 million contract) would get about $2.7 million and infielder Mike Moustakas ($12 million contract) would be left with about $1.8 million.

Votto's prorated pay would be reduced by 80%, according to the sliding scale reported by Associated Press and ESPN. Bauer and Moustakas would take 70% cuts.

Either way, that's far less money than the players agreed to in a March 26 deal. At that time, players said they would accept prorated shares of their salaries based on what percentage of each team’s 162-game schedule is played.

Under that deal, Votto would get $12.7 million for an 82-game season, Bauer $8.9 million and Moustakas $6.1 million.

Bauer responded on Twitter by saying: Alright... y’all want another video of my thoughts on this or would you rather I just “shut up and play baseball”??

The MLB's new proposal is seeking deeper cuts - from 10% to 80% - with the highest-paid players getting only a fraction of their prorated salary. Here's how it would work, according to ESPN:

  • A player scheduled to make the league minimum ($563,500) would get a prorated number of $285,228 and be paid at 90%, leaving him with a $256,706 salary.
  • Players making $563,501 to $1 million would be 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%

Major League Baseball made the new proposal to the players’ union on Tuesday during a digital meeting rather than the 50-50 revenue-sharing plan that owners initially approved for their negotiators on May 11, two people familiar with the plan told The Associated Press. The people spoke on condition of anonymity because the details were not announced.

In addition, the union said “the sides also remain far apart on health and safety protocols” aimed at starting the pandemic-delayed season around the Fourth of July. The sides have been grappling with how to aim for an opening day originally scheduled for March 26 but pushed back because of the new coronavirus.

“We made a proposal to the union that is completely consistent with the economic realities facing our sport,” MLB said in a statement. “We look forward to a responsive proposal from the MLBPA.”

The revenue-sharing plan earlier this month was met with immediate hostility from the union the day owners gave their negotiators the go-ahead. That plan was not presented to players when talks began the following day.

During that session, MLB gave the union a presentation claiming billions of dollars of anticipated losses and held off making a proposal for two weeks.

According to a study by the AP, 369 of 899 players have salaries of $600,000 or less, according to the rosters frozen in March.

Under MLB’s proposal, the playoffs would expand from 10 teams to 14 and players would receive more money if the postseason is played. Usually, salaries are earned during the regular season only and players receive money from the postseason pool, a maximum of about $382,000 last year for a full share on World Series champion Washington.

MLB told the union on May 12 it hoped to play an 82-game schedule that would have teams play 13 games against each division rival and six against every club in the corresponding division in the other league: NL Central vs. AL Central, for example.

Several governors have said teams are welcome to play in their regular-season ballparks but without fans due to the new coronavirus and mandates for social distancing. MLB told the union during the May 12 presentation if teams paid players prorated salaries in a 2020 season with no fans in ballparks, the clubs would combine to have negative $3.58 billion earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization.

Players were scheduled to earn about $4 billion in salary this year. Many players and union leadership have said the March 26 agreement would stand and no additional salary should be given up. Tampa Bay Rays All-Star pitcher Blake Snell, the 2018 AL Cy Young Award winner, said he would not take the mound this year if his pay is cut further, proclaiming: “I’m not playing unless I get mine.”

Teams are worried about being at risk if a second wave of the virus causes cancellation of the postseason, which results in MLB receiving $787 million in broadcast revenue this year.

There is room for maneuvering in the economic negotiations, but no commitment on what areas to delve into.

Players could propose a longer regular season, which would result in receiving a higher percentage of their salary in the initial calculation of cuts. For instance, increasing to 94 games would reduce the initial cut from 49.4% to 42%. That could be accomplished by adding a week, inserting a few additional doubleheaders and eliminating a couple of off days.

In addition, the sides could start to address next offseason’s market for spending on free agents and players eligible for arbitration. The union could propose suspending the luxury tax for 2020 and 2021, which in theory would give the higher-revenue teams more money to spend, and to eliminate the loss of amateur draft picks for clubs signing qualified free agents.

Lower-revenue clubs would want something in return. One possibility would be to give them additional competitive balance-round picks in amateur drafts, where a pick in the 42-52 range overall yields prospects with slot values of $1.4 million to $1.8 million who have a better chance historically of becoming big leaguers.

As protection to teams against a lost postseason, salaries could be deferred with interest.