As questions continue to swirl about if and how Major League Baseball will return in 2020, at least one former executive believes there will be a season.
“Everybody wants to play, they want to find a way to get back on the field, and I think that we will find it,” former New York Mets general manager Steve Phillips said on Glenn Clark Radio May 20.
The league and the MLB Players Association have been in discussions for weeks regarding various return-to-play plans once the coronavirus pandemic subsides. The union received the league’s 67-page health proposal in May 15 and its economic proposal May 26.
The latter has been one of the biggest flashpoints during discussions, stemming from the owners’ initial desire to split revenue from the 2020 season 50-50 between the owners and the players. The union worried that, in addition to further salary cuts, a 50-50 split could lead to the introduction of a salary cap during the next round of collective bargaining agreement discussions. The current CBA is set to expire after the 2021 season.
“It can’t be deemed or perceived that either side is taking advantage of the crisis to better their position in the CBA,” said Phillips, now a host on MLB Network Radio. “I think it’s easy to not attach it to the CBA by saying … ‘There’s nothing about anything we’re agreeing to today that is setting a precedent for discussions in the collective bargaining agreement.’”
However, owners seemed to back off their initial revenue sharing proposition May 26, instead suggesting a sliding scale of compensation, as first reported by USA Today’s Bob Nightengale. Higher-paid players would take on bigger cuts while those who earn the league minimum or close to it would receive most of their prorated salary. The players were reportedly unhappy with the proposal.
Phillips said he believes the union will eventually have to relent somewhat on its current stance of players being paid their full prorated salaries (based on games played) if there is to be some baseball in 2020.
“I think the players need to recognize, if they don’t move off their position, there will not be baseball, and they won’t get anything,” he said.
While negotiations have been tense, Phillips believes there is a suitable compromise.
He proposed using a system of deferred compensation contingent on the playoffs taking place to fulfill players’ salary desires. In Phillips’ plan, players would receive half of their prorated salary during the 2020 regular season, with the other half either being paid out this year if the playoffs happen or in future years if the playoffs get canceled due to a second coronavirus wave.
“I think there’s probably a deal in there somewhere,” he said.
For the Baltimore Orioles, the suspended season could have long-lasting impacts.
Since the franchise is in the middle of a rebuild, the club’s minor-league squads are of utmost importance in training and growing its top prospects. But with Minor League Baseball also on hold, those players — including Adley Rutschman, Grayson Rodriguez and Ryan Mountcastle — are missing out on valuable opportunities to improve.
And Phillips believes there will be no MiLB in 2020 regardless of what happens at the major league level. Such a development would be a major blow to the Orioles and other rebuilding franchises, as the rate of development would be significantly slowed for their top prospects.
“I think it is a multi-year setback in rebuilding for teams,” Phillips said. “You’ve lost a year of development, so you have nothing this year, and you’re going to have to develop next year, which means you’re set back for a second year before somebody can be a big leaguer.”
To hear more from Phillips, listen to the full interview here.
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