Astros: Players make offer to league, progress toward season

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NEW YORK - SEPTEMBER 30: (EXCLUSIVE COVERAGE) MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred visits "Mornings With Maria" hosted by Maria Bartiromo at Fox Business Network Studios on September 30, 2019 in New York City. (Photo by Steven Ferdman/Getty Images) /
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The MLB Players Union has made a counter-offer to the league for a 2020 season, which bodes well for Houston Astros fans.

For those of us hoping for some Houston Astros baseball this season, things continue to slowly progress. After MLB made its initial proposal to the Players Union, the players responded harshly and negatively. At the time, I had doubts about whether the two sides would come to an agreement. Now, however, things are looking a little brighter.

The MLBPA submitted its counter-offer on Sunday, and as expected, it calls for a longer season than the 82-game slate the league proposed. The players have suggested a 114-game season that would run from June 30 to October 31 along with an expanded postseason. That would likely mean we see baseball through the end of November, at least.

Also as expected, the union is demanding that players get their full prorated salaries. However, in what is the most welcome part of their proposal, the players are proposing that teams can defer certain players’ salaries in the event of the postseason being canceled, as that would further hurt the league’s revenues.

The deferrals would apply to players whose non-prorated salaries are $10 million or greater and would include interest, and deferrals could total no more than $100 million. It’s by no means an offer that the league will accept just yet, but it’s a starting point. At the very least, it acknowledges that the players are accepting the financial reality the league finds itself in.

The other big issue at play here is players who might opt out of playing due to COVID-19 concerns. Those who are deemed high-risk (meaning they have preexisting conditions or have family members who are more at risk for the virus) would have the ability to opt out of playing this season in both the league’s and players’ proposals.

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The difference is the players want those high-risk individuals who opt out to still get their salaries, while the league does not. In the players’ proposal, any players who aren’t high-risk and decide to opt out anyway would not get their salaries, but they would get credited for service time.

The players also proposed an expansion of the postseason for two years, while the league wanted it for just this season. Also, the union proposed that players split $100 million as a salary advance during the second “Spring Training.” But the sides do seem to agree on the possibility for an All-Star Game and Home Run Derby in the offseason to generate additional revenue. There are still issues to be worked out here, of course, but this is progress, however slow it may be.

How It Affects the Astros

The Astros have eight players whose full-season salaries for 2020 are $10 million or greater: Justin Verlander, Zack Greinke, Jose Altuve, George Springer, Michael Brantley, Josh Reddick, Alex Bregman and Roberto Osuna. In the event of a canceled postseason, the team could defer some of those salaries with interest to Nov. 2021 and 2022.

As for opting out, we have no idea at this point of whether any Astros players would be opting out. On Twitter, Reddick has expressed a desire to play, so we could presume he’ll be on the field. But we don’t know if any Houston players would be considered “high risk” at this point, so it’s a mystery as to whether any of them would consider opting out.

The league does not seem to want to budge on its 82-game season proposal, and it’s understandable. Many are concerned about a second wave of COVID-19 coming through in the fall, so the longer the season goes, the greater the risk is that it’ll have to be called off before it’s done. The only thing worse than that would be for there to be no season at all.

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But the biggest thing to take away from this is the fact that the players are at least recognizing that teams will have revenue issues in a season played in empty stadiums. The two sides are finding common ground in some areas, so it’s a start. But they only have about a week to get a deal together if the season is going to start when they want it to, so stay tuned for some hopefully good news this week.

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