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2020 MLB season now looks increasingly likely

A Rob Manfred/Tony Clark in-person meeting on Tuesday has MLB owners and players close to agreeing on a season of 60-plus games and expanded playoffs. But several hurdles remain.

Fort Bragg Game: Miami Marlins v. Atlanta Braves Getty Images

Twelve weeks after the Major League Baseball season was set to start, there are finally signs that MLB and the MLB Players’ Association can compromise on a “jointly developed framework” for the 2020 season, per a statement released by commissioner Rob Manfred Wednesday afternoon. This follows a Jon Heyman report that the two sides were “closing in” on a deal to play the 2020 season.

Heyman’s optimism was quickly tempered by a union statement: “reports of an agreement are false.” Even so, the tone of these negotiations has quickly shifted in a positive direction.

This week began with perhaps the biggest black eye that MLB has endured since the 1994 strike. Just five days after saying he’s “100 percent sure” that there will be a baseball season in 2020, Manfred walked back that statement by telling ESPN he’s “not confident” and “as long as there’s no dialogue” with the MLBPA, there will likely be no season.

The two sides have been going back and forth in labor negotiations that center around pro-rated salary for players. In an agreement made back in March, MLB agreed to pay each player the full pro-rated salary for each game played (e.g. in an 80-game season, they’d get paid for 80 games). However, MLB reneged on that deal and wanted players to take a much more significant pay cut.

A key to the latest proposal submitted by MLB is that owners have finally committed to pay the players 100% pro-rata. There’s still more work ahead, though.

Manfred and the MLB owners have asked the MLBPA to waive their legal claims against the league. The owners are worried that they’ll be brought to court as players seek financial damages because of “bad faith” negotiations—specifically, the claim that the owners did not attempt to play as many games as possible in 2020.

Some union members, like veteran right-hander Trevor Bauer, were open on social media about how they felt about MLB’s perceived “strategy” to cut the number of games down as much as possible.

According to The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal, the other key details of MLB’s proposal are as follows:

  • 60 games in 70 days
  • Season starting July 19 or July 20
  • Expanded playoff field in 2020 and 2021 (16 total teams instead of 10)

Under normal circumstances, the Marlins were longshots to be competitive at the major league level this year. However, such an abbreviated schedule lends itself to more unpredictability while the extra October berths lower the bar for them to potentially snap the National League’s longest postseason drought (dating back to the 2003 World Series title).

Looming over all of this, the sport faces the daunting task of shielding players from contracting COVID-19 at a time when the pandemic continues to spread rapidly in states like Arizona, Texas and, yes, Florida.

On Tuesday, Miami players were allowed inside Marlins Park for the first time in months to take part in various low-risk baseball activities.