The ultimatum from MLB, that a deal needs to be reached by Monday in order to avoid missing games, rightfully grabbed the headlines on Wednesday. But also notable over the last two days in Jupiter, Florida was talk surrounding the minimum salary.
Getting younger players paid more is a stated point of emphasis of the players union, and one that impacts well over a majority of members around the league.
The minimum salary in the major leagues in 2021 was $570,500. Both sides have made slight movements in their positions on the minimum salary over the last two days — players on Tuesday, followed by owners on Wednesday.
Competing minimum salary offers
The 2022 minimum salary in the owners’ latest offer represents a 12.2-percent increase over last year. The minimum salary in the players’ offer would be a 35.8-percent increase. The first-year raises of the minimum salary of the last three collective bargaining agreements were 16.2 percent (2007), 15.9 percent (2012), and 5.4 percent (2017).
Raising the minimum salary is only part of the players’ desire to raise player payrolls to a spot commensurate to league revenues, along with attempts to pay pre-arbitration players more and raise the competitive balance tax, which has effectively been used as a soft cap by almost all teams recently.
Thus far we’ve been talking about the major league minimum salary, the minimum amount paid for players while on the active roster (or injured list). Perhaps this is best expressed as a daily rate, over a 186-day season.
Last year’s minimum salary called for roughly $3,067 per day, which was especially relevant to Andre Jackson, whose four stints in the majors in 2021 lasted only one day each. At the current proposals, the owners’ $640,000 offer would mean $3,441 per day, while the players’ ask would be $4,167 daily.
But for players on the 40-man roster not in the majors, there’s another minimum salary. The one they get when in the minors. In 2021, players on their first major league contract — on last year’s Dodgers, this was Jackson, Edwin Uceta, Zach Reks, and Gerardo Carrillo — had a minimum salary of $46,600 while in the minors. Players on the 40-man roster beyond their first contract had a minor league minimum of $93,000.
Ronald Blum at the Associated Press on Tuesday detailed the minor league minimums included in MLBPA’s latest offer:
The union increased Tuesday from $65,200 to $66,000 for initial contracts this year and from $130,400 to $131,200 for later contracts. The figures would climb to $73,400 and $145,900 by 2026, up from $71,400 and $142,700 in the players’ Feb. 17 proposal.
Keep in mind that this is only for minor leaguers who are on the 40-man roster. They are the ones in the union. The hundreds of minor leaguers who aren’t on 40-man rosters aren’t represented by the union, and often get the short end of the stick, in the form of substandard wages, housing insecurity, or their jobs threatened.
But the players who are in the union are still a large group, and raising the minimum salary affects a large percentage of them.