Latest on negotiations for 2020 MLB season: Scott Boras urges players to refuse pay cuts

Apr 3, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Sports agent Scott Boras watches batting practice during a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)
Apr 3, 2018; Anaheim, CA, USA; Sports agent Scott Boras watches batting practice during a MLB baseball game between the Los Angeles Angels and the Cleveland Indians at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports (Kirby Lee)

With owners giving approval on May 11 to Major League Baseball’s proposal to begin the 2020 season amid the coronavirus pandemic, negotiations are now ongoing between the league and Players Association.

The goal is to begin a second spring training of sorts around June 10 and for Opening Day to be around July 1, meaning the league and players have a finite amount of time to reach an agreement.

Here’s the latest…

May 28, 1:47 PM:

Agent Scott Boras, who represents Max Scherzer (who spoke out against the league’s recent proposal on Wednesday night) and many other high profile players, has urged his clients to refuse any additional pay cuts, according to an email obtained by the Associated Press.

“Remember, games cannot be played without you,” Boras wrote. “Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated. … please share this concept with your teammates and fellow players when MLB request further concessions or deferral of salaries.”

Cincinnati Reds pitcher Trevor Bauer lambasted Boras on Wednesday night when rumors began to circulate that the agent was sticking his nose in negotiations.

“Hearing a LOT of rumors about a certain player agent meddling in MLBPA affairs,” Bauer tweeted. “If true – and at this point, these are only rumors – I have one thing to say… Scott Boras, rep your clients however you want to, but keep your damn personal agenda out of union business.”

With it now known that Boras is seeking to influence the negotiations, the missive delivered by Scherzer on Wednesday night has lost a bit of its luster. 

Meanwhile, as negotiations continue, the expectation remains that the two sides will reach an agreement, SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier Thursday.

May 28, 11:39 AM:

As the players dig in and prepare a counterproposal to the league that will ask for a longer season schedule and not include any further salary concessions, the players understand they will have to make other concessions — with deferred payments potentially being among them — in order to get the shortened season underway, reports SNY’s Andy Martino.

With all of the above going on in the background, teams are actively planning spring training camps and working through the logistics of what it will take to televise games, according to Martino, who adds that players are preparing under the assumption that there will be a season.

New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo recently gave clearance for local sports teams to train in the state, which gives the Mets and Yankees (who had been expected to return to Florida for spring training) the option of instead having spring training in their home ballparks.

May 27, 11:21 PM:

The latest economic proposal from MLB to the players union on Tuesday was deemed unacceptable, as SNY’s Andy Martino reports, and now Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer has spoken out publicly on the situation. 

“After discussing the latest developments with the rest of the players there’s no reason to engage with MLB in any further compensation reductions,” Scherzer tweeted on Wednesday night. “We have previously negotiated a pay cut in the version of prorated salaries, and there’s no justification to accept a 2nd pay cut based upon the current information the union has received.

“I’m glad to hear other players voicing the same viewpoint and believe MLB’s economic strategy would completely change if all documentation were to become public information.”

Martino has previously reported that the league’s top earners would be asked to take roughly a 20-30 percent pay cut under MLB’s proposal, with their salaries already being prorated due to the reduced number of games. 

Martino has noted, though, that the latest proposal, and the reaction from players, “did nothing to change the industry expectation that MLB will launch its season in July.” 

May 27, 4:40 PM:

After receiving a salary proposal from the league on Tuesday that they deemed unacceptable, MLB players met virtually on Wednesday to discuss the proposal and will continue to do so, reports SNY’s Andy Martino.

According to Martino, while the proposal on Tuesday led to some heated reactions from the players, it “did nothing to change the industry expectation that MLB will launch its season in July.”

In addition to the issue of player salary, the two sides still need to hash out an agreement regarding the health and safety protocol, with the players believing the 67-page health and safety proposal shared last week by the league needs to be modified.

As far as when negotiations could start to get more serious and gain momentum toward an agreement? That could potentially happen by this weekend.

May 27, 11:17 AM:

The financial proposal the league shared with the players on Tuesday, calling for further reductions in player salary with the biggest hits taken by the biggest earners, was met with scorn.

Still, as negotiations continue, the expectation remains that a deal will get done, as SNY’s Andy Martino reported late Tuesday afternoon.

With the goal being for a second spring training to start around June 10 and Opening Day to be around July 1, the clock is ticking.

Players and teams will need time to get all their ducks in a row before a second spring training begins, meaning a deal almost certainly has to be reached before that June 10 date (and perhaps well before it) in order for things to stay on schedule.

According to Jon Heyman, June 1 is the “soft” deadline, with June 5-10 the firmer deadline. As noted above, though, it’s fair to wonder about the feasibility of the current timeline for spring training and the season if it takes until June 10 or close to it for a deal to be agreed upon.

Bob Nightengale of USA Today cited June 6 as a potential date the sides would need to reach a deal by in order to start the season by the weekend of July 4.

May 26, 5:58 PM:

Sources tell SNY’s Andy Martino that MLB’s financial proposal to the union would see the game’s top earners taking a roughly-20-30 percent pay cut. Meanwhile, players earning the MLB minimum would still take home nearly all of their prorated salary.

Martino notes that this proposal pokes at the class divide among player salaries, essentially meaning that the highest-paid players are telling the lowest-paid players that they can’t have their money. 

“They’ve just taken the biggest problem in the union, the pay class divide, and flipped it on its head,” a veteran role player told Martino. “And now they’ll watch as the union tears itself apart as the highest paid fight back on this while the lowest paid say ‘whoa whoa whoa, we like this!’ The union will try to convince those young, naive players that it’s in their interest to stand together, but it isn’t.”

While Martino notes that days of difficult decisions lie ahead, he maintains that “it remains our expectation, based on months of reporting, that the sides will strike a deal of some kind and begin the season.”

May 26, 3:02 PM:

The new financial proposal submitted by the league has been approved by the owners and will now be presented to the players, reports Bob Nightengale of USA Today.

At the heart of that proposal is the plan for how players will be paid, with Nightengale reporting that it revolves around a sliding scale where the highest-paid players would be impacted the most, while players earning less would take much smaller hits. 

SNY’s Andy Martino reported Tuesday that the owners and league have had enough talks with the players to believe the latest proposal can lead to quick dialogue, with the sides “apart, but not irresolvable” in negotiations.

Martino added that with talks continuing on Tuesday, there is still no reason to expect anything but an agreement and the eventual beginning of the shortened 2020 MLB season.

May 26, 11:34 AM:

With the league and Players Association resuming talks after the holiday weekend, MLB owners are expected to vote on the league’s new financial proposal on Tuesday before presenting it to the union, reports Jon Heyman.

SNY Insider Andy Martino reported this past Thursday that MLB would soon make its first economic proposal to the players, and that an agreement on resuming the season could come soon after.

As far as what that agreement could look like, agents speculated to Martino that it will involve a modest across-the-board pay cut that includes deferrals, with Martino noting that outcome would look better to players than the 50-50 revenue-sharing idea that has been speculated on.

Some players had publicly pushed back on the revenue-sharing idea, and others have come out against any type of second pay cut.

But the expectation has been that in order for the economics to work without fans in attendance (at least at the outset), that a second pay cut would be necessary. The two sides are also working through health and safety protocols.

The target date to begin a second spring training has been June 10 or so, with the target date for Opening Day around July 1. And with players and teams needing lead time to prepare, the league and the players will likely need to get a deal done at some point this week or early next week in order for those target dates to be hit.

May 22, 6:23 PM:

MLB’s new economic proposal for the 2020 season will be delivered to the Players Association on Tuesday, sources tell The Athletic’s Evan Drellich

May 21, 5:09 PM:

The Players Association issued a formal response to the league on Thursday regarding the 67-page health and safety proposal that had been shared with the players.

Among the topics touched on in the response from the union, per Evan Drellich of The Athletic, were the frequency of testing, protocols in the event of a positive test, protection for high-risk players and their families, and player access to pregame and postgame amenities/therapies in ballparks.

When it comes to the frequency of testing, the initial proposal submitted by the league called for players to be tested once every three days. The players would prefer for the testing to be more frequent.

May 21, 3:14 PM:

The Players Association plans to give its first official response to the league’s 67-page health and safety protocol document on Thursday, SNY’s Andy Martino confirmed.

The union said in a statement, per ESPN’s Jeff Passan:

“The union has spent the past several days carefully reviewing the manual and gathering feedback from its medical experts and players across the league, including a 3 1/2-hour video conference with 100-plus player leaders on Monday night, and we expect to provide our initial feedback to the league today.”

May 21, 1:31 PM:

With the clock ticking toward what likely needs to be a resolution over the next 10 days or so if the league wants to remain on track to begin a second spring training around June 10 and have Opening Day around July 1, the next week will be crucial.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported Thursday that MLB will likely make its first economic proposal to the players in the next few days, and that an agreement on resuming the season could come soon after.

As far as what that agreement could look like, agents speculated to Martino that it will involve a modest across-the-board pay cut that includes deferrals, with Martino noting that outcome would look better to players than the revenue-sharing idea that has been speculated on.

The position of some players and agent Scott Boras has been that the pay cut players agreed to on March 26 should be the final pay cut. But the position of the owners has been that the agreement reached on March 26 included a stipulation that the two sides could seek further pay cuts for players in the event games are played in ballparks without fans in attendance — something the owners argue is not economically feasible without further pay cuts.

May 21, 11:48 AM:

With the league and players still in a staring contest over the economics of the potentially shortened 2020 season, it’s expected that the league will submit an economic proposal “by early next week,” reports Jon Heyman.

In addition to the economic situation — with there being increasing pressure on the players to accept an additional pay cut, as SNY’s Andy Martino reported Tuesday — there has been reported pushback from the players on the breadth of the health and safety protocols that were proposed by the league in a 67-page document.

Among the health and safety protocols some players are reportedly objecting to, according to Jesse Rogers of ESPN, are restrictions on the use of certain amenities at team facilities and the proposed guidelines for when teams are on the road — where they would be expected to be basically quarantined in their hotel rooms when not at the ballpark.

May 20, 11:12 AM:

Over 130 players joined in on a conference call Monday night led by the union where the league’s comprehensive health and safety proposals were discussed, Joel Sherman of the New York Post reported.

According to Sherman, the union is expected to respond to the 67-page health and safety proposal at some point this week.

The proposal, which includes plans and guidelines for coronavirus testing, social-distancing measures, expected player behavior, and more, was submitted to the players last week.

May 19, 6:01 PM:

The league has not yet made an economic proposal to the players, and when it does, it won’t necessarily be the revenue-sharing plan that the union considers a non-starter, people with direct knowledge of the process told SNY’s Andy Martino.

According to Martino, the expectation remains that the two sides will reach an agreement to play the season and that any agreement will involve a further pay cut for players beyond the one they agreed to on March 26 that involved the players receiving a prorated share of their 2020 salaries.

The position of the players has been that the agreement they made on March 26 is the final salary agreement. But that position has been weakened due in part to a March 26 email that was recently unearthed by the New York Post.

In that email, MLB officials summarized to deputy commissioner Dan Halem a conversation with Players Association deputy general counsel Matt Nussbaum and director of analytics and baseball operations Greg Dreyfuss the position of the league that playing in empty stadiums without a further pay cut for players would not work economically.

May 19, 2:40 PM:

As negotiations continue to resume the season amid the coronavirus pandemic, the league recently gave the players two options, reports Jon Heyman.

The first option was to “negotiate a new financial agreement” for the players salary-wise that would be in place if the season resumes without fans in attendance.

The second option was to wait until the point where it’s safe to resume games with fans in attendance.

The league, due to what it says would be financial losses incurred during a potentially shortened season without fans in attendance (at least at the outset of the season) has sought to reduce player salaries further from the deal that was reached on March 26.

With it not seeming feasible to wait until it’s safe to resume games with fans in attendance to begin the 2020 season, it appears something will have to give at some point soon regarding the salary issue.

May 19, 9:19 AM:

Austin Hedges, a player rep for the San Diego Padres who has been involved in the negotiations between the league and the players, told the San Diego Union Tribune Monday night that he feels the two sides have been “getting stuff done” over the last 48 hours.

“I really do believe we’re to a point where a decision will be made. … I feel very confident it’s going to happen,” Hedges said.

Hedges added that decisions are now being made instead of the two sides contemplating what-ifs, and spoke about the players making monetary sacrifices this season in order to position themselves better in the future.

“We’ve got to make sacrifices anyways,” he said. “Let’s make those sacrifices now with the future in mind. Everything we’re working for is not to make this year extra special. It’s let’s get through this year as best we can and cut our losses but make sure 2021 and beyond the league is going to be in great shape.”

Hedges said that he believes most players are on board, despite loud opposition from some key players regarding any additional pay cuts for the players.

“I think (most players) are on board,” he said. “We want to play and bring home money to our families. … I think it will happen. Especially with what (Gov. Gavin Newsom) said today (about sports returning to California in June), I’m excited.”

May 17, 11:36 AM:

In a presentation shared by the league with players regarding projected financial losses during a potentially shortened season, the league said the players’ current prorated salaries would contribute toward an average loss of $640,000 per game.

The presentation, a copy of which was obtained by the Associated Press, was called “Economics of Playing Without Fans in Attendance,” with the league saying it would lose more money with each additional game played.

Other details contained in the presentation:

  • The Yankees (at $312 million in projected local losses) and Mets (at $214 million in projected local losses) would be two of the three hardest-hit teams under the current 82-game plan. The Dodgers are projected to lose $232 million.
  • MLB broke down 2019 revenue as being 39 percent local gate and other in-park sources, 25 percent central revenue, 22 percent local media, 11 percent sponsorship, and 4 percent other.

The league seeking a further reduction of player salaries beyond the reduction players already took on March 26 has been a major issue as players and the league continue to negotiate toward a potential return, with some players (including Blake Snell and Trevor Bauer) outspoken against another reduction and others (such as Nolan Arenado) taking a more measured approach.

May 16, 12:55 PM:

The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal and Evan Drellich obtained a copy of the 67-page health and safety document that MLB sent to the Players’ Union on Friday night. The extensive document lays out protocols for testing, spring training, facility operations, travel, and on-field operations. 

Some of the notable protocols include:

  • Regular testing for players, managers, coaches, umpires, and a limited number of essential staff members who are in close proximity to the players. All individuals will also have to take daily temperature checks at home before coming into the team facility.
  • Spring training will be limited to 50 players per club, with staggered reporting dates. Clubs are also encouraged to use other local facilities, such as college fields, for split-squad games.
  • Limited groups of essential personnel will be permitted into team facilities. This group includes essential on-field personnel, front office employees, public relations personnel, broadcast crews, law enforcement, EMTs, and others.
  • Player lockers should be six feet apart, and clubs can use unused or outdoor space to construct temporary lockers if necessary. Players will not be permitted to high-five, fist-bump, or engage in any other physical interaction with others at team facilities.
  • Players will not need to wear masks on the field, but they will need to be worn in the dugout, with all players six feet apart, using seats in the stands if necessary. Players will not be permitted to spit or use chewing tobacco or sunflower seeds in restricted areas.
  • Pitchers will have individual baseballs for bullpen sessions. Also, a new baseball will be used any time a ball is put in play or multiple people touch it. 
  • When traveling, players won’t officially be quarantined, but they will not be permitted to leave the team hotel without further approval, and only immediate family members will be permitted to visit players. Teams are also encouraged to fly into smaller airports when possible.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan notes that MLB will issue 10,000 tests per week, and will also offer free coronavirus tests to all healthcare workers and first responders in MLB cites.

May 15, 1:05 PM:

In a wide-ranging conversation with Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic, Rockies third baseman Nolan Arenado touched on recent comments made by Blake Snell and explained the current stance of the players.

“The public should know that we want to play baseball,” Arenado said. “As long as it’s right, as long as it’s fair, we want to be out there. We want to go play. The misconception is that players don’t want to play if it’s not perfectly set up. That’s not the case. We understand nothing is going to be perfect this year.”

Arenado, who told Rosenthal that he’s not personally concerned about returning to play, said he understood where Snell was coming from but also sees the other side of things.

“We’re baseball players, right? We make great money. Regardless if we don’t make the money we want, we’re still making great money,” Arenado explained. “A lot of people in this world are struggling a lot harder than us. Some people might see him as a complainer. Some people might agree with his views. At the end of the day, he made some points I agree with. But he also made some points where it’s just going to be too hard to get everyone on our side.”

May 14, 9:29 PM:

During an interview with CNN, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred outlined the league’s coronavirus testing plan and also expressed his optimism for reaching a deal with the MLBPA. 

“All of our players would be tested multiple times a week” for coronavirus, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred says on the efforts to bring baseball back. “That testing would be supplemented less frequently by antibody testing as well.”#CNNTownHall

– Anderson Cooper 360° (@AC360) May 15, 2020

“I think it’s hopeful that we will have some Major League Baseball this summer,” Manfred said. “We are making plans about playing in empty stadiums, but as I’ve said before, all of those plans are dependent on what the public health situation is and us reaching a conclusion that will be safe for our players and other employees to come back to work.”

As for reaching a deal with the players on reduced salaries for the season, Manfred said he’s very optimistic a deal can be reached.

“Me, personally, I have great confidence that we’ll reach an agreement with the Players Association,” said Manfred. “Both that it’s safe to come back to work and to work out the economic issues that need to be resolved.”

Manfred confirmed that the league will use a facility in Utah to test players multiple times per week, with results available in 24 hours. If a player is experiencing symptoms, instant testing will be available. 

If a player tests positive, he will be immediately quarantined until he tests negative twice, and any other player who came in contact with that player would receive instant testing. 

Manfred was also asked about players potentially declining to play due to safety concerns.

“We hope that we will be able to convince the vast majority of our players that it’s safe to return to work,” Manfred said. “… At the end of the day, however, if there are players with either health conditions or just their own personal doubts, we would never force them or try to force them to come back to work. They can wait until they feel they’re ready to come.”

May 14, 1:57 PM:

MLB has partnered with a Utah lab in order to provide coronavirus testing to players and support staff, in addition to “thousands more in the general public,” reports Tom Verducci of Sports Illustrated, who says the testing plan was presented by the league to the Players Association on Tuesday.

The lab, The Sports Medicine Research and Testing Laboratory, will turn its current lab (which currently performs testing for performance enhancing drugs) into a coronavirus testing facility.

Any return by MLB this season has been expected to include a coronavirus testing element, but there had been questions surrounding the ethics of potentially using thousands of tests on players during a time when many in the general public are still unable to get tested. It’s fair to believe the above agreement would allay some of those concerns. 

May 14, 9:24 AM:

As MLB and the Players Association continue to negotiate, one prominent agent told SNY’s Andy Martino that there’s “no question” some players will sit out the 2020 season due to concerns over contracting coronavirus and/or passing it to a family member.

As Martino wrote Thursday, those players will look at the possibility of taking a further pay cut from an already prorated salary and conclude the risk is not worth the reward.

Tampa Bay Rays ace Blake Snell expressed his hesitance on Wednesday night.

“I gotta get my money,” Snell said on his Twitch channel. “I’m not playing unless I get mine, okay? And that’s just the way it is for me. Like, I’m sorry you guys think differently, but the risk is way the hell higher and the amount of money I’m making is way lower, why would I think about doing that? Like you know, I’m just, I’m sorry.”

Snell then texted Marc Topkin of the Tampa Bay Times to explain further.

“I mean, honestly, it’s just scary to risk my life to get COVID-19 as well as not knowing and spreading it to others. I just want everyone to be healthy and get back to our normal lives ’cause I know I miss mine!”

May 13, 11:19 AM:

The league’s proposal to implement a universal designated hitter for the 2020 season is expected to be “easily approved” by the players, reports Jon Heyman.

One of the teams that could benefit the most from the potential use of the DH? The Mets, with Yoenis Cespedes, J.D. Davis, Robinson Cano, and Dominic Smith among those who could be beneficiaries of the extra hitter in the lineup.

When it comes to Cespedes, who has missed the majority of the last two seasons due to lower-body injuries, he could be the Met best-suited to DH.

May 13, 9:31 AM:

With the league and Players Association speaking Tuesday about the restart proposal (with the league not yet formally proposing its economic idea), the league will soon be sharing an 80-page document with the union “outlining potential health and safety protocols,” reports Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic

According to Rosenthal, the document will cover topics including testing protocols and what could happen if a player or other essential employee tests positive for coronavirus.

SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier this week that the sport would not necessarily need to shut down if a player tested positive.

May 12, 8:57 AM:

The “sentiment of several of the game’s most prominent agents” is that a softer tone should be used during the negotiations — not a tone similar to ones used by prominent player agent Scott Boras and MLBPA chief Tony Clark.

“He does not speak for all of us,” one prominent agent told SNY’s Andy Martino regarding Boras’ aggressive public stance.

May 11, 8:26 PM

Scott Boras has called for the players to reject the league’s initial proposal.

Latest on negotiations for 2020 MLB season: Scott Boras urges players to refuse pay cuts 1

“The players I represent are unified in that they reached an agreement and they sacrificed anywhere from 30 to 40 percent of their salaries so that the games could amicably continue,” Boras told Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein. “The owners represented during that negotiation that they could operate without fans in the ballpark. Based on that, we reached an agreement and there will not be a renegotiation of that agreement.”

May 11, 3:50 PM

When it comes to what would happen if a player tests positive for coronavirus after the season resumes, a league executive told SNY’s Andy Martino that the sport would not necessarily need to shut down.

The scenario laid out by the executive:

The player who tests positive would be isolated, with the entire team receiving immediate coronavirus tests. At that point, any players found to have the virus would also be isolated and replaced by a member of the team’s large taxi squad (which could consist of roughly 20 players). Players who do not test positive would continue to play.

May 11, 2:21 PM

With the proposal agreed to by the owners, the next step — as SNY’s Andy Martino reported earlier Monday — will be that proposal being brought to the MLB Players Association on Tuesday.

During the call between the league and the players on Tuesday, it is expected that the players will be asked to take additional pay cuts beyond the already agreed-upon cuts that they took in March.

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