A's Won't Be Paying Minor League Players After May 31, but Those Players Can't Move

John Hickey

I’m no lawyer. Never wanted to be. Until tonight.

The Oakland A’s have told their minor league players that they won’t be getting paid again this season.

According to an email obtained by Sports Illustrated’s Stephanie Apstein, minor leaguers in the Athletics organization were told they would not be paid after May 31.

The email, signed by Athletics’ general manager David Forst, said the players do not become free agent and are not free to sign with other teams.

I’d like to be a lawyer long enough to see how that works. Let’s forget for a moment that there is no minor league baseball being played now, and a 2020 minor league season in the age of COVID-19 is unlikely in the extreme. It’s problematic that Major League Baseball will be able to put together a shortened season.

It would be interesting to see the legalese in minor league contracts that say teams can stop paying the player yet can block him from moving elsewhere in baseball.

It seems that this is a reincarnation of baseball’s reserve clause, which tied a player to the team that signed him, even after his contract ended. It was only in 1975, when arbitrator Peter Seitz made pitchers Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally the sport’s first free agents and turned the players’ union into the most powerful and influential in North American sports.

However, the Major League Baseball Players Association only covers those who have made it to the Major Leagues.

When baseball shut down over the COVID-19 problem, the 30 organizations that comprise Major League Baseball announced they would pay minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. On average, minor league salaries range from about $290 to $500 per week over the course of the minor league season.

For A’s minor leaguers, that income is about to end, although the organization said it will continue to subsidize the players’ health insurance.

“Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not to continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31,” the Forst email read. “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.”

The A’s, who didn’t respond to request for comment, also have imposed furloughs and pay reductions for staff members across the organization, which fields eight minor league teams and which will be saving an estimated $1.3 million by not paying its minor league players from June through September.

Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3

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