The players are negotiating. The owners are not. It’s that simple

The players made the owners another offer last night.

There are a lot of moving parts in this negotiation. It can be hard to get your brain around what’s good for what side in each offer. It’s made even more complicated when, immediately after every offer everyone is spinning, with the side making the offer calling it reasonable and the side receiving it calling it laughable. Against that backdrop, it’s tempting to say that both sides are awful and neither side is acting in good faith.

That’s wrong, though. It’s very clear in this instance that only one side is trying to work toward an agreement while the other side is not. It’s very clear that the owners are negotiating in bad faith and that the players are attempting to compromise. It’s pretty simple to illustrate this:

  • The players’ first offer was for 114 games at prorated pay. Their second offer was 89 games at prorated pay with expanded playoffs for two years. That second offer is, by definition, a concession, as it calls for less money paid out to players in salaries and increased revenues for owners for two seasons.
  • The owners’ first offer was for 82 games and included about $1 billion in pay cuts via doing away with prorated pay and going to pay on a “sliding scale.” Their second offer was for 76 games at 75% prorated pay but a good deal of non-guaranteed money and deferrals. As analyzed in detail by Craig Edwards at FanGraphs, the second offer would guarantee players less money than the owners’ first offer. It contains no concession and is actually moving in the wrong direction.

The players are moving toward the owners in their offers. The owners’ offers — and their reported fallback option of simply imposing a 48-game season at prorated pay — may look slightly different because of the number of games or the specific details, but they are all calculated to get them to basically the same place: where, in the aggregate, they save about a billion dollars in salary over what was agreed to in March. And, of course, the owners are offering less baseball in every proposal.

In light of that, the negotiation looks a lot like this:

Owners: “We will give you 40 cents on the dollar.”

Players: “We would like 60 cents on the dollar.”

Owners: “No, but how about this, we will give you a quarter, a nickel, and a dime on the dollar.”

Players: “We’ll take 55 cents on the dollar.”

Owners: “No, but how about we give you three dimes and ten pennies on the dollar.”

Players: “We’ll take 50 cents on the dollar.”

Owners:

The owners proposals have not increased the amount of money they’d pay out. Not once. In fact, it’s even moving backwards. The players moves have reduced payout in each offer. Who isn’t moving? And why, given this dynamic, should the players even continue to engage the owners? How are they not, at this point, bidding against themselves?