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Is baseball coming back? Here's the latest news on MLB, player negotiations to restart season

Yahoo! Sports logo Yahoo! Sports 5/16/2020 Yahoo Sports Staff

a large stadium with green grass with Guaranteed Rate Field in the background: CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 08: A general view of Guaranteed Rate Feld, home of the Chicago White Sox, on May 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 Major League Baseball season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) © Provided by Yahoo! Sports CHICAGO, ILLINOIS - MAY 08: A general view of Guaranteed Rate Feld, home of the Chicago White Sox, on May 08, 2020 in Chicago, Illinois. The 2020 Major League Baseball season is on hold due to the COVID-19 pandemic. (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images) Major League Baseball and its players have begun discussing a way to restart the 2020 season following the coronavirus delay. The owners approved a plan on Monday that would restart baseball in July and include a contentious revenue sharing salary system. Negotiations with the Major League Baseball Players Association began with a meeting Tuesday.

Among the many complicated questions that need to be answered: How will players be paid? When and where will games be played?

When will the season start and how many games will be scheduled? What will rosters look like? How will the postseason work?

The most crucial and perhaps most difficult roadblocks involve the safety measures needed to prevent the further spread of the coronavirus: What precautions would be in place to keep players and their families from being exposed? What happens if a player falls ill?

Here are the latest updates.

MLB proposes medical protocols to players

The league has presented a 67-page document outlining its proposed medical protocols, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports. Here are some of the key points from the report, beginning with the testing guidelines.

  • Regular testing for all players, managers, coaches and umpires, plus a limited number of essential staff who come into close proximity with players.

  • MLB will monitor developments in testing and attempt to use the least invasive and fastest methods that are commercially available without adversely impacting public health needs.

  • All players must undergo “Intake Screening” upon arriving at spring training.

  • Individuals who are tested must self-quarantine at his or her spring-training residency until the results of the testing are reported. Any individual who tests positive is instructed to self-quarantine and gets treated accordingly.

  • Asymptomatic individuals are monitored daily through symptom screens, temperature checks and frequent testing.

  • Before entering a club facility, individuals will get their temperatures checked and complete a short symptom and exposure questionnaire.

  • Any individual who reports COVID-19 symptoms or a temperature above 100 during a home screening may not enter club facility, and instead must immediately self-isolate and be directed to team physician.

  • Each club must develop procedures for isolating, transporting, testing and treating individuals who display potential symptoms.

The document also touches on other key issues, which include as spring training and travel protocols. Here are the key takeaways there.

  • Spring training is limited to 50 players per club.

  • Workouts staggered throughout the day to avoid overcrowding.

  • Report dates will be staggered and the camp structure will be divided into three phases led by return of pitchers and catchers.

  • Minimum standards will be maintained for cleaning and disinfecting the clubhouse and other areas of the facility.

  • Communal water and sports drink coolers/jugs are prohibited.

Here’s a big one that’s been discussed a lot.

  • No spitting, using smokeless tobacco and sunflower seeds in restricted areas.

  • Meetings will take place virtually when possible.

  • Lockers should be six feet apart. For some facilities, that may require erecting a temporary clubhouse or locker facilities in unused stadium space.

  • Showering will be discouraged at club facilities.

  • Rather than an exchange of lineup cards, lineups will be placed into an application.

  • Non-playing personnel must wear masks at all times in dugout.

As for travel.

  • Rideshare services like Lyft and Uber are discouraged.

  • Whenever possible, teams will be expected to fly into smaller airports.

  • Members of the traveling party are not to leave the hotel unless they receive advance approval from team personnel.

  • On the road, the players should essentially isolate at hotels.

It’s also noted that MLB plans to develop a COVID-19 education program that the players, umpires and all team employees will be required to complete before receiving access to the facilities.

These are just a few brief snippets from the extensive proposal. The players have not yet given a formal response.

Players request financial documents from MLB

Lawyers for the MLB Players Association have asked Major League Baseball and its owners to submit financial documents as they seek more details into the industry’s finances, the Associated Press reported Thursday.

The players had previously agreed to accept prorated salaries based on the number of games played in 2020, but a new battle is brewing after the owners approved a new proposal that asks the players to accept a 50-50 split of revenues. Players union executive director Tony Clark quickly called the proposal a "non-starter" and labeled it the latest bid by the owners to slyly a institute a salary cap.

Before agreeing to any deal, the players clearly want more information regarding the league’s revenue and whether the potential losses this season would make a significant reduction in salary necessary.

Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Blake Snell stated Wednesday night that playing for anything less than his full $7 million salary is “just not worth it.” The 2018 Cy Young award winner cited safety concerns amid the coronavirus pandemic and the previous agreement regarding prorated salaries.

Snell added: “For me to take a pay cut is not happening, because the risk is through the roof.”

Health and safety issues have been leading the negotiations so far, but based on the league’s proposal and the players’ response, the money issue may end up being the most complicated hurdle.

Owners propose non-rapid testing, limited quarantines, and no spitting when MLB returns

Health and safety measures were the primary topic of discussion when MLB and the MLB Players Association met on Tuesday, and now we have some idea of what measures MLB proposed to the union. According to Jared Diamond and Louise Radnofsky of The Wall Street Journal, MLB presented the union with proposals on testing, what would happen if someone tested positive, and other social distancing procedures that could be put into place.

Testing: According to The Wall Street Journal, MLB proposed that players, coaches, umpires, and other staff be tested more than weekly, but less than daily. MLB reportedly won’t use rapid-response tests for routine tests of game-involved personnel, since the rapid-response tests (which give results in 1-4 hours) are harder to come by. MLB would use those tests on those who are showing symptoms or have been exposed.

The bulk of the league’s routine tests would deliver results in about 24 hours. MLB believes it can execute these tests, which would be done on upwards of 1,000 people several times a week, without taking tests away from frontline workers, and would not continue with this plan if tests for frontline workers would be impacted. All personnel would also be expected to submit to frequent temperature checks and report any symptoms immediately.

Positive tests: Despite the risks in testing people less than daily with tests that take 24 hours to develop (which could lead to widespread exposure and an outbreak), MLB does not want a positive test to shut down the league once it restarts. The Wall Street Journal reported that a player who tests positive would be removed from the general population, but his teammates would not be required to quarantine. Instead they would be tested and “watched closely.”

Social distancing: Bullpens, locker rooms, training rooms, treatment rooms, and other team facilities would be rearranged to accommodate social distancing. Spitting in dugouts (or anywhere else) would no longer be allowed. High fives and mound visits would also be banned. Relievers might sit in the otherwise empty stands when not warming up.

MLB is also reportedly exploring options for players, coaches, and umpires who are older, immunocompromised, or have preexisting conditions, since that makes them more susceptible to contracting COVID-19. It’s possible that they would be allowed to sit out the season due to the elevated health risk.

First MLB, union meeting focuses on health and safety measures

In the first formal dialogue intended to address the details of opening the baseball season in early July, MLB and the players union spent much of Tuesday addressing health and safety protocols and contingencies as they relate to the coronavirus, according to sources.

While the league did present an economic status report, sources said, it did not propose a new salary structure for players. That proposal is expected to seek a 50-50 revenue-sharing agreement between owners and players. Union leaders have said they would reject such a proposal and instead abide by the terms of a late-March agreement, which they believe established a system of prorated salaries.

That showdown did not come to pass Tuesday.

Many players have publicly expressed concerns for themselves, their families and others — coaches, staffs and stadium workers among them — if they were to return ahead of the national curve for testing and care.

The league expressed its preference for playing regular season games in teams’ home ballparks. Alternative sites would be chosen in the event certain cities were not in a position to host those games.

Several active players, members of the union’s executive subcommittee, participated in Tuesday’s video conference. The timing for the next meeting has not been established. - Tim Brown

Owners approve proposal to restart MLB in July

Major League Baseball owners took the first step Monday in restarting games this summer. They voted to approve a proposed plan that would start “around Fourth of July weekend without fans,” according to the Associated Press, with spring training starting in mid-June.

Getting owners approval is only half the battle. The players union would also need to agree to this plan. MLB officials are scheduled to present their plan to the MLBPA on Tuesday. That part of the negotiations is expected to be more difficult, as a proposed revenue-sharing system is reportedly expected to be a sticking point between the union and ownership.

Other details in the proposed MLB plan, according to the AP:

• Each team would play about 82 games against teams in their own division and nearby interleague opponents.

• 14 teams would make the postseason, as there would be four wild card teams in each league.

• The All-Star Game in Los Angeles would likely be canceled.

• Teams would play at their home ballparks unless not allowed for medical or political reasons. Their back-up locations would be spring-training stadiums or neutral sites. The Blue Jays may have to play in Florida instead of Toronto, the AP reports.

• A universal DH is a possibility under the plan.

• MLB rosters would expand from 26 to 30 players and teams would likely have an NFL practice squad-like collection of minor leaguers to pull from.

Again, all this needs to be approved by the players union, so this is only the first step in a negotiation toward restarting MLB.

The biggest hurdle will be finding an agreement on player pay. The AP reports that owners want players to get a 50-50 split of revenues during the regular season and postseason. Such a revenue split would be new for baseball and could complicate negotiations.

How much MLB revenue comes from attendance?

Reports indicate that MLB will propose a revenue-sharing plan for the 2020 season, in which players would receive a certain cut of the league’s revenue in a one-year iteration similar to the NBA or NFL’s usual system.

A source told Yahoo Sports’ Tim Brown that Major League Baseball will enter the negotiations with numbers showing that fans attending games typically accounts for 51 percent of local revenue and 40 percent of the league’s total revenue.

This would be used as evidence the league needs to alter a March agreement to pay players their salaries pro-rated for the number of regular season games that occur.

How we got here

The league canceled spring training and suspended its season on March 12 as the coronavirus crisis gripped the country. Later in March, MLB and the players association agreed to a series of stipulations to temporarily deal with the financial ramifications of the upended season. Players secured assurances about service time, which determines when a player reaches free agency. The league advanced portions of player salaries, a sum that won’t exceed $170 million, and that players will keep if there is no season. In return, the players agreed not to sue for full salaries in the event of a total cancellation.

That March agreement also laid out a plan for pro-rated player salaries in a shortened season, but reports indicate the league is seeking a different salary structure now that fans are unlikely to be permitted for the foreseeable future.

The 2020 MLB draft was cut to five rounds in another cost-cutting measure. The union rejected a proposal for a 10-round draft that capped the number of undrafted players teams could sign.

Multiple plans for restarting the season have been discussed internally and speculated about externally. Some ideas floated concepts for playing the season at spring training sites or in a small number of local hubs to limit travel and exposure, but the most recent reports on league thinking indicates it prefers to host games in home stadiums.

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