The last eight months have been brutal for minor league baseball, and even with that backdrop this week seems especially cruel for players.
Major League Baseball committed to pay minor leaguers (those not on the 40-man roster) a stipend of $400 per week through May 31. That’s this Sunday, and this is the week every team is making its own decisions if they haven’t already. At least nine teams have committed to continue paying minor leaguers, per Jake Seiner of the Associated Press. The Dodgers are paying their minor leaguers through at least June, per Jorge Castillo of the Los Angeles Times.
David Price reportedly pledged to pay $1,000 for every Dodgers minor leaguer in June, which is a wonderful gesture but also incredibly sad that it falls on players to do this sort of thing that many teams won’t.
On the low end of the spectrum, the Oakland Athletics this week decided to end payments to minor league players effective June 1. General manager David Forst in an email to A’s minor leaguers said, “This was a difficult decision and it’s one that comes at a time when a number of our full-time employees are also finding themselves either furloughed or facing a reduction in salary for the remainder of the season. For all of this, I am sorry.”
There would have been 13 weeks left in a typical minor league season, and conservatively teams usually carry 150-200 minor league players. That comes to roughly $1 million in total for the remainder of the season. Instead, the players get nothing, and can’t seek employment elsewhere since they are under contract.
Some minor leaguers though are no longer under contract, with scores of players getting released this week across baseball. Jeff Passan of ESPN, plus J.J. Cooper and Chris Trenkle at Baseball America said there will be hundreds of players released.
Agent telling me he heard one club released 50+ minor leaguers yesterday, “So, they can claim they’re still paying guys, but actually threw a third of the system overboard to save what? Less than 300k? (1/2)— emilycwaldon (@EmilyCWaldon) May 28, 2020
Have spoken with a number of minor league players today. The words “terrified,” “scared” and “nervous” have been common. https://t.co/HnnZyTwv0Z— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) May 28, 2020
This an imperfect storm of doom for the minor leagues. You’ve seen how MLB owners are trying to cut costs with major league players during a pandemic, and that’s a group with whom they have a collective bargaining agreement. Minor league players have no union, and seemingly always get the short end of the stick.
There is significant doubt that there will even be a minor league season, which means no place for these players to play, leading to more getting released. Factor in the upcoming draft shortened to five rounds, this is all one big overall reduction of talent in the minors, perfectly setting the stage for the expected contraction of 40+ minor league teams the league has reportedly been planning since November.
One of the minor leaguers released was former Dodgers pitcher Brock Stewart, who was a non-roster invitee in Cubs camp.
Just got that call a little bit ago. Very tough to hear and realize. I’m not done though. I’m ready to go. I’ll be ready whenever. I have worked hard and got better. This bullshit will not get the best of me. https://t.co/4JZDe95Wc3— Brock Stewart (@Brock_A_Stewart) May 28, 2020
There have been, and will be, so many more to meet the same fate this week.