The Ricketts family, more than any other owners in the NL Central, should be intrigued by the MLB Players Association’s economic counterproposal.
Overall, the proposal is the second step in a fiery tango, in which the players association and owners begin on opposite sides of the room and hopefully end up somewhere in the middle. The players’ response, which the union reportedly delivered to the league on Sunday, will almost definitely not be adopted in whole. But, in the midst of both sides’ hard-lining, the players extended the option to defer some player salaries if the postseason is cancelled.
As one of the top five spenders in MLB, the Cubs would be one of the teams most affected by that aspect of the proposal.
The prospect of losing the playoffs to a second wave of COVID-19 is the stuff of baseball owners’ nightmares. The postseason supplies especially lucrative TV deals, which become especially important as the league braces for a massive loss of revenue this year.
The MLBPA counterproposal addressed that fear by including deferrals, according to multiple reports. Contracts calling for salaries of $10 million or more (before proration) could be deferred, with interest. High-payroll teams could enjoy up to $7 million each in relief, The Athletic reported.
The Cubs have 10 players poised to make at least $10 million before their salaries are prorated this year, per spotrac.com.
– Jason Heyward, $23.5 million
– Yu Darvish, $22 million
– Jon Lester, $20 million
– Kris Bryant, $18.6 million
– Anthony Rizzo, $16.5 million
– Craig Kimbrel, $16 million
– Tyler Chatwood, $13 million
– Kyle Hendricks, $12 million
– Jose Quintana, $10.5 million
– Javier Baez, $10 million
That’s the most in the league. Twice as many as the White Sox. In the NL Central, the Cardinals (8) are the closest to catching the Cubs, followed by the Reds (5). On the other end of the spectrum, the Pirates don’t have any players with $10 million salaries.
There is, however, a Catch-22. According to chairman Tom Ricketts, 70 percent of the Cubs’ revenue comes from gameday operations. With such a high payroll, and fans banned from attending games for the foreseeable future, the Cubs organization is poised to take an especially large financial hit.
Still, Ricketts said on CNBC last week, “We’d definitely like to see baseball back."
A presentation from the commissioner’s office to the players association, obtained by the Associated Press, projected $199 million in local losses for the Cubs alone, before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization. That estimate was based on an 82-game season without fans and with players taking prorated salaries.
If that number is accurate – the players continue to call on owners to open their books – $7 million wouldn’t be much relief in the face of a cancelled postseason. And, as mentioned before, it would come with interest. But by mentioning deferrals in a counterproposal, the MLBPA introduced an area for potential compromise.
The players quickly dismissed the league’s sliding scale proposal, which could reportedly pay the highest-paid players merely 20-30 percent of their salaries. But deferrals could help ease owners’ financial challenges this season without axing players earnings so drastically.