May 15 (UPI) -- Team owners could lose up to $4 billion if a 2020 season is called off due to the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball commissioner Rob Manfred said.
"The economic effects are devastating for the clubs," Manfred said Thursday on CNN. "We are a big business, but a seasonal business. Unfortunately, this crisis began at a low point for us in terms of revenue -- we hadn't quite started our season yet.
"If we don't play a season, the losses for the owners could approach $4 billion."
The MLB season has been on hold since March 12. Players are at spring training when the hiatus began. Teams had been scheduled to begin the regular season March 26, but the league now thinks games could start in July.
Manfred is a member of a 200-person group that advises President Donald Trump on how to reopen the U.S. economy amid the coronavirus pandemic. NFL commissioner Roger Goodell, NBA commissioner Adam Silver and other major sports commissioners and team owners also belong to the group.
Manfred has met with Players Association director Tony Clark about the economic terms players and owners would have to live by if baseball returns for a shortened season. The discussions also addressed player health and safety.
"I think that whenever there's a discussion about economics, publicly people tend to characterize it as a fight," Manfred said. "For me, personally, I have great confidence that we'll reach an agreement with the players' association both that it's safe to come back to work and work out the economic issues that need to be resolved."
Losses of $4 billion for owners would amount to an average of $133.3 million for each of MLB's 30 franchises. Forbes estimates the average MLB team is worth $1.85 billion. The New York Yankees are the most-valuable franchise, with an estimated value of $5 billion. The Yankees generated $683 million in revenue in 2019.
Manfred said league commissioners have had ongoing conversations and analyzed what other leagues around the world did when they made their return to the field, including the Korean Baseball Organization in South Korea and the Chinese Professional Baseball League in Taiwan.