Next week will tell if 2020 MLB season starts in early or late July

Andy Martino

Andy Martino, | Twitter |

First the good news: MLB players will report to spring training even if the owners impose an approximately 50 game schedule. Because of this, people on all sides of the current labor dispute are extremely confident that there will be a 2020 season. 

Here's more good news. MLB might make another financial offer to players after all, according to sources, despite a belief earlier this week that it would not. The negotiation for a new agreement on pay is not over, and it won't necessarily be limited only to back channels.

And now for the more complicated part of this update.

Speaking to sources on all sides of this issue on Friday, it became clearer than ever that the players really do appear ready to stand on principle on receiving full prorated salaries. 

If that's for 48 games -- which no one wants, not the league and not the players -- so be it. The players seem extremely united on this point, perhaps as united as they have been in a generation. We don't know for sure that they won't blink in the coming week, but today it truly seems like they won't.

Owners are almost certainly still expecting the players to accept a small pay cut beyond the pro-rata structure laid out in their March 26 agreement with the players. The sides, obviously, are not close to agreement.

If the owners do somehow agree to pay full prorated salaries for a more palatable number of games, say 70-80, the players remain willing to offer a number of sweeteners: Two years of expanded playoffs. Mic'd up players on MLB Network. Salary deferrals if the coronavirus prevents postseason play. And the players would drop their request for MLB to open its books.

The owners could have all that today, if they just agree to full prorated pay at a higher number of games.

If they don't, and if no new agreement is reached, MLB could launch a shortened season in late July. That would likely lead to a grievance from the players and backlash from fans and many in the media, but as previously stated, the players will report.

On Thursday night, our sources predicted that the new agreement will call for a 65-80 game season, a small cut off the full prorated salaries and other concessions for both sides.

On Friday we can tell you this: The players are even more dug in on the issue of the further cut than we realized.

As Players' Association executive director Tony Clark said in a statement Thursday, "The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon."

The players do not accept numbers published that detail what owners claim as financial losses due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Decades of mistrust lead into that current dynamic. 

As agent Scott Boras has said publicly, and as many players continue to privately insist, it is unfair for owners to socialize losses after never socializing profits. Boras and others who see the issue this way clearly hold the majority view on the labor side.

The upshot of all this? The next week or so will decide if we get a shortened and contentious season that begins in late July or a more harmonious one that launches closer to July 4.

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