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If owners' proposal went through, Tigers would save big on payroll

Chris McCosky
The Detroit News

Detroit — It’s not happening like this.

The sliding-scale economic package Major League Baseball submitted to the players’ association on Tuesday landed like an insulting slap in the face.

Miguel Cabrera

As Andrew Miller, a member of the union’s executive committee, told The Athletic: “We want to play baseball. This pandemic is going to have a profound impact on all of us. Players are willing to make sacrifices and surely will to get back on the field. However, we will not sacrifice our principles or the future generation of players to do so.

“While I am disappointed in where MLB is starting the discussion, if this is truly about getting the game to our fans, I have confidence we will find common ground. I know that our players will do their part.”

There were no negotiations scheduled for Wednesday while union bosses and agents discussed the owners’ proposal with the rank and file. Most likely the players will make a counter proposal. It has been suggested that a plan to defer salaries until the industry gets back on its feet might be proffered.

But if the owners’ proposal were to miraculously become law, the higher paid players would be hit the hardest — a player set to earn $35 million in 2020 would earn a maximum of $7.84 million. Minimum salaried players ($563,500) would get $262,000.

ESPN’s Jeff Passan got a hold of the scale:

Full-year salary/Owners’ proposal

►$563,500/$262,000

►$1 million/$434,000

►$2 million/$736,000

►$5 million/$1.64 million

►$10 million/$2.95 million

►$15 million/$4.05 million

►$20 million/$5.15 million

►$25 million/$6.05 million

►$30 million/$6.95 million

►$35 million/$7.84 million.

Such a pay scale would be a boon for the Tigers, of course. Their two biggest contracts — Miguel Cabrera, $30 million, and Jordan Zimmermann, $25 million — would end up costing them about $13 million.

The Tigers top five contracts — Cabrera, Zimmermann, C.J. Cron ($6.1 million), Jonathan Schoop ($6.1 million) and Matthew Boyd ($5.3 million) — would’ve cost them $72.5 million in a full season. Prorated for a half season, they’d have cost just under $37 million. With the owners’ proposed scale, they’d cost $18.5 million.

Jordan Zimmermann

And, with Zimmermann coming off the books after this year, leaving only Cabrera’s salary ($94 million through 2023), the Tigers would have enormous financial flexibility. Conceivably, they could be serious bidders on the free agent market as early as 2021.

But that’s all fantasy right now. The reality is, the owners and players remain at loggerheads on both financial and health issues. And time is running out.

The goal is to begin an 82-game season by July 4. That would mean a second spring training would have to commence no later than June 14. That would put the unofficial deadline on an agreement between June 6-10.

In the meantime, the Tigers and other teams are expected to announce the fate of minor league players by the end of this week. While the Tigers have committed to paying baseball operations staff, including scouts and player development personnel, indefinitely, there is a chance they will furlough minor league players not on the 40-man roster.

The Tigers have been paying minor leaguers a stipend through May. But with the likelihood of no minor-league baseball this summer, layoffs could be coming.

chris.mccosky@detroitnews.com

Twitter: @mccosky