Earlier this afternoon we heard about Rob Manfred and Tony Clark meeting face-to-face in an effort to get some momentum on their stalled talks. In the past hour a flurry of reports emerged from those talks, some contradicting others, which suggests that, while the matter remains as clear as mud, at least some progress has been made toward playing a 2020 season.
The frenzy was kicked off by Jon Heyman is reporting that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA were “closing in on an agreement to play the 2020 season.” The Players Union and several reporters quickly walked that back, saying that such talk was premature. Indeed, the MLBPA itself simply said that “reports of an agreement are false.”
What does seem to have happened, however, based on numerous reports, is that Major League Baseball has made a proposal to the MLBPA for a 60-game season at prorated pay and an expanded playoff structure that could include as many as 16 teams. It is unclear if that expanded playoff proposal, like some earlier union proposals, would cover both this season and next or just a shortened 2020 campaign.
As we’ve reported many times, the MLBPA negotiated for and received assurances that any 2020 season would feature prorated pay for the players. The owners have been attempting unsuccessfully to get the players off of that requirement with the threat of imposing a short season — around 50 games — if they had to pay players prorated salaries. The players have offered expanded playoffs in an effort to get the owners to to move closer to their demand of a longer season.
Finally, in recent days MLB was reported to have been demanding that the players waive any rights to file a grievance claiming that the league has been negotiating in bad faith. Some reports this afternoon claimed that the union is amenable to that. Either way, it’s likely that MLB would not agree to 2020 plan that either (a) did not contain a waiver of bad faith; or (b) did not represent enough movement toward the players’ position that such a claim would be unlikely to be advanced.
In the wake of those conflicting reports and all of that uncertainty, Major League Baseball just released a statement from Rob Manfred claiming that he and Tony Clark have agreed to a “framework” that “could” lead to an agreement:
“At my request, Tony Clark and I met for several hours yesterday in Phoenix. We left that meeting with a jointly developed framework that we agreed could form the basis of an agreement and subject to conversations with our respective constituents. I summarized that framework numerous times in the meeting and sent Tony a written summary today. Consistent with our conversations yesterday, I am encouraging the Clubs to move forward and I trust Tony is doing the same.”
Again, not definitive. And it wouldn’t surprise me a bit if the union shot back taking issue with Manfred’s characterization of the meeting. But that’s where we are.