In addition to seeking pro-rated salaries for players — and larger reductions if/when games are played without fans in attendance — the league is asking umpires to take a reduction in pay as well, USA Today’s Bob Nightengale reports. Nightengale indicates that the league is seeking a roughly 35 percent reduction in pay and has informed the umpires that if no agreement can be reached between the two sides, they will not be paid until play resumes. The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal reports that the umpires’ offer included a 20 percent reduction in pay (subscription link). The league is seeking an agreement as soon as this weekend, though that may not be likely.
Per Rosenthal, the umpires union is torn on whether to accept the league’s proposal and has responded with a “hold letter” that would keep negotiations going while the umpires agree not to file a grievance as their May pay is withheld. His piece is rife with specifics on the league’s proposal, although at its base, the league is asking that umpires’ entire salaries be prorated despite the fact that umpires are paid over a 12-month term (unlike players, who are paid only in-season). In essence, the league is seeking to retroactively prorate salary that was paid out to umpires prior to the COVID-19 pandemic by more heavily reducing pay in the remaining months of the year. Umpire per diems and postseason bonuses would be reduced as well. The league would compensate umpires for working a second Spring Training.
Nightengale notes that salaries range from $110K for rookie umpires to $432,800 for the most seasoned of the 76-person group. Postseason bonuses, per diems, an annual $12,000 licensing payment (which has already been paid out), health and retirement benefits further boost earnings. That said, umpires themselves face a lengthy grind to the big leagues while calling games in the minors and (per Rosenthal) top out at earning a $20K salary per year in Triple-A.
The potential unrest between the league and its umpires only serves as the latest reminder that the amount of intricacies that need to be accounted for in a shortened season teeters on innumerable. As with the players, there will be logistical challenges for umpiring crews once this dispute is settled, but the immediate focus is agreeing on finances and the extent of concessions both sides will make.