Minor League Baseball players will see a sizable pay bump during the 2020 season, but the affiliated minors continues to do battle with Major League Baseball over the state of the sport beyond this year.
MLB, which two years ago successfully lobbied the US Congress to exempt minor league players from federal minimum wage laws, will increase pay to those players by 38 per cent to 72 percent.
In a memo detailing the changes obtained by the Associated Press, players at rookie and short-season Class A levels will see their minimum weekly pay rise from $290 to $400. Players at the high Class A level will go from $290 per week to $500. The Class AA level pay will increase from $350 per week to $600. And the Class AAA level will go from $502 per week to $700.
Minor league players will continue to be paid only during the course of their five-month regular season. High-round draft picks will often also receive signing bonuses that can extend into the millions of dollars. But for the vast majority of minor league players, the pay raise provide a little extra comfort amid a pay scale at that level that historically has been below basic living wage levels.
Stories around the sport are legend of large groups of minor league players living in overcrowded apartments and subsisting on minimal amounts of food because of the low wages.
“Much deserved,” tweeted Ben Verlander, former minor league pitcher and the younger pitcher of star MLB pitcher Justin Verlander, regarding the new pay increases. “We’d put in 12 hours a day at the baseball field, and all we ask for in return is a livable wage. Love this.”
MiLB player salaries are paid by the MLB parent clubs.
The Toronto Blue Jays prior to the 2019 season independently rose the pay for their prospects by 50 per cent, and are the only MLB team known to have paid their minor leagues more than the stated minimums.
The broader pay shifts come as MLB continues to seek an dramatic overhaul of the affiliated minors, led by the elimination of major league affiliations for 42 farm clubs. The talks have grown increasingly fractious in recent weeks.
MiLB said in a statement it supports the planned salary increases, while still decrying MLB’s intent to reduce the number of affiliated minor league clubs.
“This is an important step as we seek to work together to improve working conditions for players without reducing the number of players and teams,” MiLB said. “Minor League Baseball believes MLB can afford these salary increases without reducing the number of players by 25 per cent. We have provided MLB with a specific proposal on how we can work together to ensure improvements to older facilities and reduce travel between series through limited realignment. We look forward to continued good faith negotiations with our colleagues at MLB and our principal goal remains to preserve Minor League Baseball in as many communities as possible.”