Playing for free, salary drop, 2022 lockout possible for MLB

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FILE - In this April 24, 2013, file photo, Cleveland Indians second baseman Jason Kipnis stands on the Major League Baseball logo that serves as the on deck circle during the first inning of a baseball game between the Chicago White Sox and the Indians, in Chicago. Major League Baseball rejected the players' offer for a 114-game regular season in the pandemic-delayed season with no additional salary cuts and told the union it did not plan to make a counterproposal, a person familiar with the negotiations told The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity Wednesday, June 3, 2020, because no statements were authorized.(AP Photo/Charles Rex Arbogast, File)

NEW YORK – Jeremy Jeffress, Jordan Montgomery, Kevin Plawecki could be playing for free this season, earning salaries lower than what they already received as advances.

Mookie Betts, George Springer, J.T. Realmuto, James Paxton and Marcus Stroman are likely to find fewer bidders, dollars and contract years as the free-agent market lurches into a free fall next offseason.

And all of baseball could be bracing for a spring training lockout and shortened 2022 season after the coronavirus pandemic heightened the likelihood of the sport’s first work stoppage since 1994-95.

“Bryce Harper, Manny Machado, Christian Yelich, all these guys are lucky that they signed,” former Miami Marlins president David Samson said Sunday. “The biggest people you should watch this offseason are Mookie Betts and J.T. Realmuto because J.T. thought that he would surpass Joe Mauer and Buster Posey, and there is likely no chance. And Mookie Betts thought that he would be above Bryce Harper and I would view that as much less likely now.”

The pathogen highlighted each side’s economic interest: players care most about the regular season, when they accrue the entirety of their salaries; owners worry about the postseason, when $787 million in broadcast revenue is due.

Major League Baseball owners are left with the decision of how long a regular season to schedule after players’ union head Tony Clark said Saturday night that “unfortunately it appears that further dialogue with the league would be futile.”

Bruce Meyer, the union’s chief negotiator, sent Deputy Commissioner Dan Halem a letter that “we demand that you inform us of your plans by close of business on Monday.”

A March 26 agreement called for players to receive prorated salaries and bound the sides to “complete the fullest 2020 championship season and postseason that is economically feasible,” consistent with a series of provisions: no government restrictions on mass gatherings, no travel restrictions and no health or safety risk “to stage games in front of fans in each of the 30 clubs’ home ballparks.”