A’s reinstate minor league player payments

RingCentral Coliseum, home of MLB's Oakland A's

Major League Baseball’s Oakland A’s have reversed course on prior plans to suspend payments to minor league prospects during the ongoing competitive hiatus due to the Covid-19 pandemic, and will now pay those players.

The A’s were the sole outlier among MLB teams, and had planned to end the $400 weekly payments to each prospects following the expiration at the end of May of a prior leaguewide payment plan.

But billionaire A’s owner John Fisher, who received widespread rebuke for seeking to stop payments to the already low-paid minor leaguers, admitted the decision was made in error and said those players will now be paid through what would have been the rest of their 2020 season

“I changed my mind after spending a lot of time talking to our team,” Fisher said to the San Francisco Chronicle. “I concluded I’d made a mistake…I’ve listened to our fans and others, and there is no question that this is the right thing to do. We clearly got this decision wrong. These players represent our future and we will immediately being paying our minor league players. I take responsibility and I’m making it right.”

The A’s are also setting up an emergency fund to assist team employees who were recently furloughed. The club’s staff furloughs covered roughly half of their entire front office as one of the league’s lower-revenue teams continues to seek ways to cut costs with games still on hold due to the pandemic.

With the shift, all 30 MLB teams will now be paying their minor league players at least through the end of June, with many of them already committed to payments through the timeframe of the original 2020 schedule. The Washington Nationals previously planned to reduce prospect payments to $300 per week, per player, but also quickly shifted course in the face of strong blowback.

It remains increasingly unlikely there will be a minor league baseball season at all due to the ongoing health crisis. As MiLB clubs generate the vast majority of their revenue from gate receipts, playing without attending is an economic non-starter for most franchises at that level.