As the league and the players union fight over money, the possibility of the Houston Astros playing in 2020 is up in the air.
If you’re like me, you’re more than ready for the 2020 Major League Baseball season to get started. I’m dying to see my Houston Astros get back on the field, start winning some games and put the 2019 season and offseason chaos behind us. But the league and the players are standing in the way.
Both sides seem to agree on the need for safety and testing, and they both seem to agree on the feasibility of an 82-game season. There are details to be ironed out in those areas, of course, but there appears to be plenty of common ground. But if this potential season is going to be derailed, there’s one thing that will be responsible — money.
No one expects the players to get their full 162-game salaries if only 82 games are played, of course, but there’s more to it. The Players Union contends that the players should get their full pro-rated salaries for the shortened season. In other words, since the season would only consist of about 50.6 percent of a typical season’s games, the players want the full 50.6 percent of their 2020 salaries.
The owners, facing a sharp decline in revenue from the likely absence of fans this season, aren’t wanting to pay those full 50.6 percent of salaries. The latest proposal that the league has submitted to the players calls for a reduction of salaries, with the highest paid players getting the most significant reductions. The lowest-paid players would still take cuts, but they would be far less.
It’s not perfectly clear how big of a cut the highest paid players will take, but MLB Network’s Jon Heyman reports they could face a reduction of their pro-rated salaries by as much as 50 percent, or even more. Heyman even uses former Astros hurler Gerrit Cole as an example.
Though Cole is gone, there are some current Astros players who’d see some hefty salary reductions under this proposal. Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke and Jose Altuve all rank in the top 14 in the league in guaranteed salary for 2020. George Springer is tied for 35th, while Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick and Alex Bregman are among the top 105.
Now this is not going to be how the final deal ends up looking, if there is a final deal at all. While those of us who aren’t multimillionaires may think the players should take their still-hefty salaries and play the game, that’s not how the players or their union will see it.
The MLB Players Union is one of the strongest unions in the world. It’s the reason the sport doesn’t have a salary cap and that, for the most part, player contracts are fully guaranteed. Both sides will have to give some ground, but the league is going to have to give more than it wants if there’s going to be any kind of a deal here.
So yes, this largely amounts to billionaires and millionaires fighting over money. But neither side is simply going to give in, regardless of how much they would stand to lose if there’s no season. I do think there will be a deal eventually, but it’s going to come down to the wire and involve plenty more public posturing and wars of words.
For the time being, Astros fans, we just have to sit tight. We have to hope that the owners and the players have the best interests of the game at heart and that they’ll work out a deal to give us all a sense of normalcy in these trying times.