It was on Tuesday that the Oakland A’s became the first Major League Baseball team to walk away from their minor leaguers, announcing they would end the $400 stipends they’d been paying weekly for players who were without incomes with the minor league seasons shut down.
There were some reasons to believe that other teams would follow, but as of midday Saturday, none have. The A’s are alone in having made a decision that is both unpopular and a bit of a public relations nightmare.
It was always going to be a tough year for minor leaguers. For the last couple of seasons MLB has been looking for ways to trim in the area of three dozen minor league clubs. That was pushed slightly to the side by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it still looms,
While MLB and the players’ union continue to negotiate about creating a formula to get a shortened Major League season in place by July, it seems likely that there will not be a minor league season. It’s possible that the short season, if it happens, would leave most minor leaguers out. Current suggestions call for a 30-man big-league roster and a 20-man taxi squad.
As of Saturday, the A’s are still the only MLB team known to have scheduled an end to the stipend made to players who nonetheless remain part of the organization and who can’t negotiate with other clubs. At least 24 of the other 29 franchises have either extended the payments through the end of the minor league season in August or, at a minimum, at least through June.
There are nine teams who have committed to stipend payments through August – the Astros, Marlins, Twins, Padres, Reds, Royals, Mariners, Red Sox and Yankees. The Reds have gone the rest of the field one better, committing through Sept. 7, the last day on the minor league schedule for 2020.
Another 15 teams have said payments will at least continue through June – the Dodgers, Mets, White Sox, Rays, Rangers, Orioles, Braves, Giants, Diamondbacks, Cardinals, Cubs, Brewers, Phillies, Indians and Pirates.
The White Sox are the only team to say minor leaguers just released by the club will also get the same stipend and the players retained by the club. The Indians said that they would be extending health insurance payments through August. And while the Phillies will continue through June, the Philadelphia organization indicated that it was reserving the right to pay less than the $400 that all clubs have been paying the last two months.
Teams who have yet to publicly announce one way or another are the Blue Jays, Angels, Nationals, Rockies and Tigers.
Minor league players make from $290 per week at Class-A to $502 per week at Triple-A. Since there are more Class-A teams than Triple-A, the $400 was actually a boost in weekly income for a majority of the minor leaguers.
The stipends come at the cost of not playing. Spring training was suspended and the start of the minor league season was postponed due to the COVID-19 coronavirus pandemic. On March 19, MLB began a policy of paying the suddenly inactive minor leaguers a stipend that first was through April and was later extended through Sunday, May 31.
The Oakland decision, which came from A’s majority owner John Fisher, is increasingly looking like an outlier. And it’s likely to cost the club in the upcoming June draft.
There will only be five rounds instead of the normal 40, and all eligible players not selected become free agents. As the only MLB organization to jettison its minor leaguers, the A’s shouldn’t be surprised if players they approach rebuke them and sign elsewhere.
Follow Athletics insider John Hickey on Twitter: @JHickey3
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