As the days peel off the calendar toward an unofficial but implied deadline to salvage a 2020 season, the gulf between Major League Baseball and the Players' Association appears as many as 74 games wide.
Tuesday morning, some two days after its offer of a 114-game season, the union had yet received a counter-proposal from MLB in the wake of a tense conference call Sunday during which the league threatened to cut the season as short as 40 games, according to a person with direct knowledge of the negotiations.
The person spoke to USA TODAY Sports on condition of anonymity because of the sensitive nature of the talks.
The issue of pro-rated salary remains the largest sticking point, even as owners floated the concept of a 50-game season with pro-rated salaries in an ESPN report. At the moment, owners are willing to offer players a more extended season on a sliding salary scale, or pro-rated salary within a very shortened season.
This week is crucial in determining whether there is a MLB season in 2020.
The issue of extended playoffs — which would enable owners to recoup significant revenue in the face of the shortened season and no fans in attendance at games — appears settled. Yet a shorter season that enhances the chances of a complete postseason in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic is appealing for a wider swath of owners, given the significant disparities in local broadcast revenue during the regular season.
There is no hard deadline to reach an agreement, though the calendar provides a de facto timeline. Ideally, players would report to training camps around June 10 in hopes of starting the season around July 3, which makes the next three days particularly crucial.
MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred estimated in a CNN interview losses of $4 billion if games are played without fans. Players also have plenty at stake.
New York Yankees ace Gerrit Cole, for example, was slated to make $36 million in the first year of a $324 million deal. That would be reduced to about $8 million in MLB's 82-game sliding scale proposal. He'd make around $11 million, pro-rated, under MLB's reported 50-game concept, and about $16 million under the union's 114-game, pro-rated proposal.