Report: MLB Eyeing Early July for Start of 2020 Season

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While no plans have been finalized, Major League Baseball is working toward finishing up its proposal to the players' union for when to start the 2020 season. According to a report from The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal, the proposal will be discussed by team owners on Monday and presented to the players' union on Tuesday.

Rosenthal reports several key components of the league's proposal regarding the length of the season, scheduling, playoff format and host cities. Each of these is contingent on receiving the go-ahead from health experts and assurance that coronavirus testing will be adequately available.

The regular season would begin in early July and consist of approximately 80 games, per Rosenthal. Teams would play regionalized schedules, only facing other teams in their own division, or the corresponding division in the other league. For example, American League West teams would only face other AL West teams and National League West teams. Schedules would feature more matchups between teams that are in the same division. MLB will also propose to use the designated hitter in both the AL and the NL, according to Joel Sherman of the New York Post.

Games would be played in as many home cities as possible. Teams that are not able to play at home would have to relocate, either to their spring training sites or other major-league parks in different cities, Rosenthal reports. A second "spring" training would take place either in teams' home parks, or in Arizona or Florida.

This season would feature an expanded playoff field, with seven teams per league, according to Rosenthal. The expanded-playoff format would be similar to the one first reported in February by The New York Post. The teams with the best record in each league would receive a first-round bye to the Division Series. The remaining six teams in each league would face off in a best-of-three series in the wild-card round, with the remaining two division winners plus the wild card team with the best record facing the bottom three wild card teams.

Games will be played without fans, at least initially. A potentially contentious point of this proposal is the players being asked to take a further pay cut to help offset the loss of revenue that comes with having no fans in attendance, according to Rosenthal. The players agreed in March to take prorated salaries for 2020, but that only covers the regular season. Playoff bonuses are based on gate receipts, a payment structure that would have to be altered should fans remain out of the picture for the entirety of the season.

According to NBC Sports' Craig Calcaterra, players are "hopping mad" about another potential reduction in salary and that there is “going to be a war” if owners demand further pay cuts as part of MLB's plan to play in 2020. 

Other aspects of the proposal include a roster size of as many as 50 players, Rosenthal reports. Further details on medical protocols also need to be finalized, particularly for what would happen if a player tests positive for coronavirus.