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With owners and players in agreement on divisional structure, much territory needs to be covered before MLB returns

If baseball returns in 2020, fans will not be in attendance and the divisions will be realigned.Kathy Willens/Associated Press

Much territory still has to be covered before Major League Baseball owners and players agree on what a pandemic-shortened 2020 baseball season will look like.

The sides agree that travel should be kept as short as possible and will adopt a radically different regular season structure.

In the counter proposal from the players on Sunday, the union embraced the owners’ idea of regional realignment, which means the traditional National and American leagues would remain intact but only within each region.

In the new East, each of the 10 AL and NL East teams would play only each other; the same for the Central with its 10 AL and NL Central teams; and in the West with its 10 AL and NL West teams, according to industry sources with direct knowledge of the proposal.


Games would be played in the teams’ ballparks without fans. Standings would be kept within each division and league to determine which teams would qualify for an expanded playoff system, one which would likely include seven teams from each league.

As for how many games the regular season will be and how much the players will be compensated, that’s the tip of a good-sized iceberg that must melt in the coming week if an early June spring training is to be held.

The players want a 114-game schedule beginning June 30 and ending Oct. 31, which includes flexibility for doubleheaders.

The owners’ original proposal was for an 82-game schedule that would begin in early July.

On compensation, the owners proposed a sliding scale of pay cuts on top of the prorated salary reductions the sides agreed to in March. The players did not reject that compensation system, they simply ignored it.

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On Monday, ESPN reported that the owners were willing to accept the prorated salary agreement but they want a much shorter season of approximately 50 games, less than half of the 114 games the players proposed.


The owners, said ESPN, have not made the counter-proposal to the players’ union.

If the 2020 season is canceled and the owners never reap playoff revenues, the players offered to defer $100 million in salaries for 2020 pre-prorated contracts of $10 million or more. Those deferred payments would be made, with interest, in Novembers of 2021 and 2022.

Large payroll teams would receive up to $7 million each in relief.

Also part of the players’ response to the owners: players who are high risk or live with someone who is a high risk to COVID-19 can opt out of playing and still receive their salary and service time.

Players who opt out for other reasons would not be paid but would receive service time.

The players also agreed to commitments on broadcast features, such as microphones on players and programming away from the ballpark. The players are open to discussing having the Home Run Derby and All-Star Game and other special events be scheduled for the postseason or offseason.

Michael Silverman can be reached at michael.silverman@globe.com.