Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association late Wednesday reached tentative agreement on the first-ever minor league collective bargaining agreement, per both Evan Drellich at The Athletic and Jeff Passan at ESPN.
The agreement, which could be ratified as early as Friday, would be a five-year deal through 2027, and marks the culmination of several years of work from minor league players and their advocates on improving conditions for players outside of 40-man rosters.
The MLBPA brought minor league players in as a bargaining unit last August, and in September the union was formally recognized by MLB in September. The agreement on a new CBA came on the same day a federal judge formally approved a $185-million payment from MLB to minor leaguers to settle a lawsuit that was agreed to in July.
Triple-A opens play on Friday.
The headliner of the collective bargaining agreement is minor league minimum salaries more than doubling. In Triple-A, the minimum salary goes from $17,500 to $35,800; Double-A increases from $13,800 to $30,250; High-A players at minimum will be paid $27,300 for the year, up from $11,000; in Low-A, the minimum raises from $11,000 to $26,200; at the rookie complex level, minimum salaries rise from $4,800 to $19,800.
It shows just how little minor league players were paid when even those new, modest minimum salaries are seen as massive wins for the players.
There’s also potential for players to be paid more, depending on their work during the offseason. Drellich explains:
Different training periods: The fall training period lasts from the end of the season until the Friday before Thanksgiving. A dead period follows from the Saturday before Thanksgiving through Jan. 1. Then there will be a winter training period from Jan. 2 until spring training. During the training periods, players are to be paid at one rate if they’re home, and if they’re called into the complex for instructional leagues or other work, they’ll be paid at a higher rate. The minimum salaries listed above assume players are at home during those training periods, so players can make more money than those minimum salaries listed.
There are downsides, of course. For one, players at complexes at the Dominican Republic aren’t included. From Passan:
Among those not included in the deal are players at teams’ complexes in the Dominican Republic. The minor league unit of the MLBPA includes only players on teams’ domestic rosters — and players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela and other foreign countries will still reap the benefits when stateside.
There’s also the reduction of domestic reserve lists, which MLB can reduce from 180 to 165 players as early as 2024. That continues a trend in recent years of Major League Baseball gutting the minor leagues, including removing 42 teams from affiliated baseball in 2020.
A few other highlights of the agreement, first from Garrett Broshuis, a former player turned lawyer who was instrumental in the $185-million lawsuit settlement above:
3. Players are receiving pay during spring training, and at least some during the off-season. That has never happened in the 140 years of this sport. Players can focus on training instead of Uber ratings.— Garrett Broshuis (@broshuis) March 30, 2023
The reserve clause for players drafted at 19 or older has shortened from seven years to six in the CBA. This means minor leaguers are now eligible for free agency after six years.
Additionally, players now have a grievance process and the right to provide input and receive notice on rule changes. They also gained second-opinion rights for medical concerns.
J.J. Cooper at Baseball America noted, after decades of coving the minor leagues:
After decades of stagnation, the pace of improvement in minor league working conditions in the past few years has been dramatic. A minor league player who signed in 2000 and retired in 2018 would have noticed very little difference in overall working conditions in his career. The per diem for road trips increased slightly, but minimum salaries remained largely unchanged. Minor league players paid for their own food, largely through mandatory clubhouse dues. Housing was the responsibility of the players, even though MLB teams could move a player from city to city with little advance notice.
Comparatively, a minor league player who signed in 2019 has seen more change in the past four years than what occurred in the previous 50 years.