Players union expected to reject MLB’s proposal to delay start 2021 season

The Major League Baseball Players Association is expected Monday to reject MLB’s proposal to delay the season by a month after having discussions among the sub-executive council and player representatives, two people with knowledge of the talks told USA TODAY Sports. The people requested anonymity because the negotiations are ongoing.

The union has not informed MLB of a formal decision or made a counterproposal, but plan to officially reveal their position Monday.

MLB proposed a 154-game season late Friday afternoon in which spring training would start March 22 and opening day on April 28, with players still retaining their full pay as if they played 162 games. The proposal, however, would not guarantee full pay if the season was shorter than 154 games, while still giving Commissioner Rob Manfred authority to suspend the season for health concerns, according to two additional people with direct knowledge of the proposal. The proposal also includes a universal DH, an expanded postseason to 14 teams, seven-inning doubleheaders and starting extra-inning games with a runner on second base  just like in 2020.

The union has steadfastly rejected the expanded postseason proposal in talks this winter, believing it would disincentivize teams’ willingness to spend if it would be easier to qualify for the playoffs.

MLB logo (Photo: Mark J. Rebilas, USA TODAY Sports)

MLB and the union still could agree on an expanded postseason, along with a DH by opening day, but the union still wants a full 162-game season, believing fewer games could damage its position in the next collective bargaining agreement negotiations, which expires Dec. 1.

The union also maintains that since the players were able to complete a 60-game season and expanded postseason last year by following strict protocols, they could play a full season without much interruption. The union also believes fewer off days in a shortened season would be a safety concern. There also is a concern that pitchers have already begun working out in preparation for spring training starting in three weeks. It also would delay the minor-league season another month.

MLB believes it would be safer for the players to wait a month until the COVID-19 vaccine is more widely distributed, and the rate of infection drops. It would also provide more time for teams to allow fans in the stands.

Barring a sudden change in stance by the union, spring training will begin Feb. 17 with pitchers and catchers reporting to camps in Arizona and Florida.

Follow Nightengale on Twitter: @Bnightengale.

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