PHOENIX — Major League Baseball and the players union broke their stalemate Wednesday when the owners offered to pay the players their full prorated salaries in exchange for a 60-game season starting July 19, according to two high-ranking executives with direct knowledge of the proposal.
They spoke to USA TODAY Sports on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the negotiations.
The two sides are expected to re-engage in serious discussions Thursday in hopes of reaching a deal by the weekend.
This is the first time the owners have agree to pay full prorated salaries, a stance the union never wavered during negotiations. In return, the players would consent to the postseason expanded from 10 to 16 teams, and agree not to file a grievance.
The union, which was seeking an 89-game season in its last proposal, likely will counter with a longer season. There are 71 calendar days between July 19 and Sept. 27, when the regular season is scheduled to conclude.
The end of the stalemate was triggered when commissioner Rob Manfred flew to Phoenix on Tuesday night to have a one-on-one meeting with union executive director Tony Clark.
The meeting, which one person described as “productive,’’ were considered critical because of the stalemate between deputy commissioner Dan Halem and lead union attorney Bruce Meyer.
Manfred has the power to simply implement a 2020 season, but wanted the owners and players to reach an agreement on their own accord, averting the possibility of the union filing a grievance.
“I think there’s real risk,’’ Manfred said on ESPN, “and as long as there’s no dialogue, that real risk is going to continue. ... The owners are a 100% committed to getting baseball back on the field. Unfortunately, I can’t tell you that I’m a 100% certain that’s going to happen.’’
Clark immediately responded in a statement, saying: “Players are disgusted that after Rob Manfred unequivocally told players and fans that there would ‘100%’ be a 2020 season, he has decided to go back on his word and is now threatening to cancel the entire season. …
“This latest threat is just one more indication that Major League Baseball has been negotiating in bad faith since the beginning. This has always been about extracting additional pay cuts from players and this is just another day and another bad faith tactic in their ongoing campaign.”
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