With the minor league season postponed due to the COVID-19 pandemic, minor league players will be receiving financial assistance from Major League Baseball from April 9 and through May 31, 2020 according to an MLB announcement this morning.
The financial support will go to all minor leaguers other than players on the 40-man roster serving an optional assignment, ones who are “already receiving housing, food or other services” from their teams, and ones assigned to the Dominican Summer League. Prior to this announcment, MLB did agree to pay minor league players the equivalent of spring training allowances through April 8.
As first reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan, all eligible minor league players will have their current minor league contract suspended and will receive $400 per week from MLB plus medical benefits. The flat rate throughout the levels also eliminates the actual impact of minor league roster assignments for the players.
The $400 stipend would end and the regular terms of their contracts restored should games resume prior to May 31, which is highly unlikely due to the spread of the coronavirus in the United States.
This initiative benefits most the players in the low levels of the minors. Players not assigned to a full season club (single-A and above) would normally have been assigned to “extended spring training” where they would only earn a per diem until the middle of June when the short season leagues begin games.
Full-season minor leaguers in the Blue Jays system would get their earnings reduced under this flat rate program, as beginning in 2019 the club’s minimum salary figures were substantially higher than the league’s. According to a piece from The Athletic’s John Lott from last season, Toronto was paying their single-A and A-advanced player around $600 per week, their double-A players around $650 per week, and triple-A players around $760 per week. Minor league veterans in triple-A usually were paid substantially higher than that.
It is unclear whether MLB will allow individual clubs to top-up the flat rate under this current plan.
Major League Baseball has been under tremendous pressure from the public, politicians, as well as current and former minor league players to provide some level of fair pay to their on-field employees. The group Advocates for Minor Leaguers issued an open letter to Commissioner Rob Manfred last Thursday.
While the number of minor league players varies quite significantly per organization and time of year, one can assume that on average there are around 250 players per club signed to a minor league contract (this number does not include Dominican Summer League players). Over 30 teams, that is around 7,500 players in the affiliated minors, for an approximate payout of $3 million per week from Major League Baseball.