Full Details of MLB’s Ill-Fated Marginal Salary Structure Proposal

Tuesday’s sliding-scale pay proposal by Major League Baseball to its players took off about as well as the Spruce Goose, though even that might be an optimistic comparison. By penalizing the highest-paid players most harshly, holding the top three tiers to what amounts to less than a quarter of their full-season salaries, the owners ensured the rejection of their plan.

Even with the addition of a $200 million playoff bonus pool, most of which would be earmarked for the players at the high end of the salary scale, the departure from full prorated pay was too much. The other issue with such a pool — comprised of $25 million for the completion of the division series, $50 million for the league championship series and $125 million for the World Series — is that it’s capped. That could be even less favorable to the players than a fixed percentage, since they’d get no further share of bigger revenues from an expanded postseason.

Early reports laid out the basics of the marginal salary structure being proposed, but Jeff Passan went into additional detail over a series of tweets Tuesday night. Rather than parroting or paraphrasing him, I’ve embedded that thread below so you can see it for yourself. If getting granular isn’t your jam, meet me back on the other side for a brief conclusion.

Look, these are some really wild figures when viewed absent the proper context. I mean, Mike Trout would still make more per game than most people pull down annually, and that’s after having his salary slashed by 66% or so. It’s not a fundamentally bad idea that those at the top can and should sacrifice a little more than those at the bottom, but the issue here is that the sacrifice is both exorbitant and disproportionate.

Owners are obviously looking to mitigate their losses, that comes as no surprise, but they’re doing so at the expense of their most valuable and marketable players. One area in which MLB has long lagged behind its professional sports contemporaries is in the marketing of its stars. While baseball is more highly regionalized and is thus less subject to the whims of shifting fandom, the league and its owners seem to be wearing that like a badge of honor.

That hubris has apparently led MLB to view players as mere commodities to be cataloged according to income rather than value. Sure, there are some league-minimum stars out there and owners probably focus on them because they provide the most pure value to the bottom line. But the names who will really draw those fairweather eyeballs are the ones that draw the biggest checks. They’ve also got the biggest voices and the most influence, thus their buy-in will be required.

Unless, of course, the idea was to cause the union to break ranks as the larger number of players being paid higher percentages of lower salaries really pushes to start the season ASAP. That probably won’t happen, so the proposal as-is will be rejected and countered with something like full prorated deals with deferrals. Let’s just hope this opening salvo from the owners wasn’t so insultingly low that it kills all hope for future negotiations.

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