Guaranteed contracts win again.
In the wake of the novel coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball and its players are currently negotiating a deal in an attempt to play a season in 2020. With economics being one of the focal points of the negotiations, the players will likely not make their full salaries in 2020.
In March, MLB and the players union agreed to a deal that covered several economic issues, including $170 million given by MLB to the players union to divvy up amongst themselves. That chunk of change would guarantee the players some form of income in the event of no season being played in 2020 and would act as an advance on player salaries if a season could be played. In the likelihood of a shortened season, the players agreed to prorated salaries based on how many games would be played in 2020.
The proposal that MLB and the players union are currently negotiating includes an 82-game season, just one game more than half of the standard 162-game season. If 82 games is inevitably the length of the 2020 season, MLB players will make essentially half of their normal salaries.
The Athletic's Ken Rosenthal wrote an interesting story regarding released and inactive players who are still set to receive their full salaries could be MLB's highest-paid players in 2020. Those players include Wei-Yin Chen, Zack Cozart, Troy Tulowitzki, David Wright, and the player set to earn the highest salary – former Rangers slugger Prince Fielder.
Fielder is set to earn the final $24 million installment of his nine-year, $214 million contract in 2020. Fielder signed that contract with the Detroit Tigers ahead of the 2012 season, but was traded to the Texas Rangers in exchange for second baseman Ian Kinsler just two seasons later. The Tigers also included $30 million in the trade.
Prince Fielder was forced to end his baseball career in August of 2016 after he underwent a second neck surgery in the span of 27 months.
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While active MLB players will earn only a portion of their salaries, Rosenthal writes that inactive players like Fielder will still likely earn their owed salaries in full.
“The amount Fielder receives might decrease if the parties reach a subsequent deal to reduce the pay of players who were released before the COVID-19 pandemic, but such an adjustment is unlikely, sources say. The players are no longer on 40-man rosters, and the sport’s collective-bargaining agreement seemingly protects the guarantees in their contracts.”
-Ken Rosenthal, The Athletic
Of the $24 million Fielder has earned per season since 2017, the Tigers send $6 million to the Rangers annually while the remaining $18 million would normally fall on Texas. Thanks to a settlement with the insurance carrier on Fielder's policy, the Rangers receive $9 million annually from insurance and pay the remaining $9 million per season out of pocket, according to the Dallas Morning News.
- SI.com Hot Clicks: Prince Fielder Could End Up Being MLB’s Highest Paid Player in 2020
While Prince Fielder's $24 million could be the highest salary of the 2020 season, the Rangers, Tigers, and insurance carrier will be off the hook once 2020 is completed. The Mets might own the most infamous post-retirement payout, as they annually pay Bobby Bonilla $1.19 million every July 1 from 2011 through 2035. Bonilla's last game played in a Mets uniform was in 1999 and later retired after the 2001 season.
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