KC Royals Midweek Musings: Clock running on deal, season

(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images)
(Photo by Brian Davidson/Getty Images) /

Will the KC Royals play baseball in 2020? The answer may be coming soon. With the season at stake, time may be running out on negotiations.

Some KC Royals Midweek Musings while the players and clubs continue feuding over financial issues:

A season in peril?  Some sunlight appeared to break through the ever-darkening clouds hovering over Baseball 2020 late Monday afternoon when ESPN’s Jeff Passan suggested Major League Baseball would propose a new deal to the Major League Baseball Players Association that would give the players, including the KC Royals, what they desperately want — a pro-rata share of salaries tied to the number of games played if and when the season starts.

The pro-rata salary concept is key for the players, who contend the clubs agreed to it in March. The clubs claim that agreement was contingent on fans attending games and that the union agreed to revisit compensation issues if fanless games became, as they have now, a reality. Capitulation by the clubs would likely move a potential deal close to done.

But as the story developed quickly, the break in the clouds started to reclose:

The ominous substance of Passan’s second message was clarified later via Twitter when Passan reported MLB is prepared to unilaterally implement a 50-game season if they can’t hammer out a deal with the union. (Commissioner Rob Manfred has the authority to self-establish a schedule).

Why, if the clubs appear ready to give the players the pro-rata deal they want so much, are the details of MLB’s potential proposal “ominous”? Because it actually gives the union only part of what it wants; the recent history of this mess is telling.

That labor and management interpret their March agreement differently forms the hard core of their present rift. Again, and as discussed previously in this space, the MLBPA believes it had a deal for pro-rata salaries no matter what; MLB believes the parties agreed to return to talks if any games are scheduled for empty stadiums. The players want the deal they say was made; the clubs know paying players without fan-generated revenues (tickets, concessions, memorabilia, parking, etc.) will drastically reduce profits and want more payroll relief.

It was against that backdrop that rumors surfaced last week that MLB would propose a 50-50 revenue split, an offer certain to be dead on arrival considering the union’s historic and deeply entrenched opposition to revenue sharing. Instead, the clubs offered a sliding scale pay plan with a pro-rata component that would cut salaries at the high end more than at the low. And multiple media reports suggested the clubs offered an 82-game schedule.

Not surprisingly, the union wasn’t impressed and countered over the weekend with pro-rata salaries based on a 114-game schedule. It also offered to defer some pay (with interest) if the postseason is canceled, presumably to soften the blow of lost playoff and World Series revenues. Also included in the proposal: expanded playoffs this season and next, a pot-sweetening cash bonanza that would soften the clubs’ financial hits — more postseason teams means more postseason games and more revenue.

As of this writing, MLB hadn’t formally responded to the players’ latest offer, although it’s certain to be rejected, possibly via a counteroffer along the lines of Passan’s reports. Expect the players to reject a 50-game schedule because it carries a proportionally drastic reduction in compensation from both their 114-game proposal and the clubs’ previous 82-game offer.

The math of the parties’ reported schedule concepts favors a deal, though. MLB’s potential 50-gamer is exactly 64 games less than the union’s; should the two sides agree to split the difference (32) they’d end up with an 82-game split, which the owners themselves apparently offered previously, suggesting they can accept (albeit grudgingly) that number of games without fans.

And if the clubs offer, as Passan suggested they might, to recognize the March pro-rata agreement as controlling, the union would be hard-pressed to turn it down for practical, financial and public relations reasons. (It’s typically best to accept an offer you’ve already accepted).

It makes sense, then, for the parties to now meet in (or return to, depending on your perspective and who you believe) the middle and agree to across the board pro-rata salaries based on an 82-game regular season. To get the deal done, the clubs could agree to expanded playoffs and the union could sign off on some sort of salary deferral.

With all those components rolled into one agreement, everyone gets something. And some kind of a season.

But the clock is running. Its ticking is getting louder. The parties need to forge an agreement soon. If they don’t get something done by the weekend, the widely-reported June 10 start of Spring Training 2.0 is in peril…and with it a meaningful 2020 season.

Baseball-Reference simulation update.  Baseball-Reference’s simulated 2020 season utilizing Out of the Park Baseball 21 continues. At the completion of Tuesday’s schedule, the KC Royals were in fourth place in the AL Central, 14.5 games behind the division-leading Indians.

The biggest news of the past week came Tuesday when the virtual Royals designated former ace reliever Greg Holland for assignment. Holland worked in 26 games and was 0-0 with a 3.52 ERA and 22 strikeouts and eight walks in 23 innings.

Jorge Lopez and Danny Duffy lead the Royals in wins with five and three, respectively, and Ian Kennedy has 11 saves.

Although Jorge Soler continues to struggle with a .192 average, he’s back on the power path and has tied Adalberto Mondesi for the club lead in homers with eight. Whit Merrifield‘s .322 average is tops on the team.

The baseball-reference.com sim updates are available daily around noon.

dark. Next. KC should consider drafting a catcher first

That’s all for this week. We’ll be back with more KC Royals Midweek Musings next week. Until then, stay safe and healthy.