MLB, umpires union in negotiations over pay amid the coronavirus shutdown

The ongoing coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic has had widespread effects on the 2020 Major League Baseball season. The beginning of the season has essentially been postponed indefinitely. The MLB regular season was originally set to start March 26. As part of the fallout of no baseball currently being played, MLB and the players association (MLBPA) have started talks over what player salaries will look like for this season. Now, MLB umpires are in a similar position.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, MLB and the umpires union are in the midst of intense negotiations regarding pay. The umpires met via Zoom for eight hours on Wednesday to debate whether to accept MLB’s proposal. The umpires sent a “hold letter” to the league, which would keep negotiations going while the umpires agree not to file a grievance as their May pay is withheld. Here’s more from Rosenthal:

On Thursday, the umpires’ union voted to send the league a “hold letter” — an offer to buy more time by not filing a grievance over the league withholding its pay in May, a source with the umps said. The next step for the umpires is to vote on the proposal, which might not happen quickly with the sport on hiatus.

The proposal, a copy of which was obtained by The Athletic, includes reductions in umpires’ regular-season and postseason pay as well as their per diem. The umps are split on whether to accept the offer, sources say. Some view the cuts as excessive. Others fear if they reject the offer the league will strike back punitively, and that public opinion will turn even more negative against a group that already is largely unpopular with fans.


Such a move could lead to the temporary losses of jobs, particularly if fewer umps are necessary — a possibility in a shorter season that might not include instant replay (if games are played at spring-training and minor-league parks, or if it is unsafe to use for umpiring crew to come to the replay center in New York). Some umpires also are concerned the league would take the extreme step of stripping their health benefits, forcing the union to fight back in a prolonged, costly arbitration.

Including payroll and most benefits, the 76 full-time umpires were scheduled to collect approximately $37.6 million in 2020, a fraction of the more than $4 billion the players would receive solely in salaries, sources say. The league’s position is that players and umpires must share in the losses the $10.7 billion industry is incurring.

MLB’s proposal for umpires includes decreased salaries for both the regular season and playoffs as well as a cut to umpires’ per diem. According to USA Today’s Bob Nightengale, the umpires had been asked to take a 35 percent pay cut by the league.In response, the umpires offered to accept a 20 percent reduction in total compensation. “But like the players, they are resistant to cuts they perceive to be disproportional, saying the league does not renegotiate to increase their compensation in years when business is booming,” Rosenthal writes.

MLB and the MLBPA are determined to have a 2020 season of some kind and have discussed a variety of scenarios for the 2020 regular and postseason, including the three-hub plan reported by our R.J. Anderson and the Arizona plan. There are plenty of logistical hurdles MLB would need to overcome and other issues needing to be addressed before committing to the plan, but on Monday, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred reportedly told league employees that he expects baseball to return in 2020.

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