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MLB will raise pay for minor leaguers in 2021

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It’s not much. But it’s a step in the right direction.

Four Winds Field, home of the South Bend Cubs
Sue Skowronski

Pay for minor league players has become a major issue around baseball. Minor leaguers’ salaries are only a small fraction what major leaguers get paid, and they make nothing during the offseason, forcing most of them to take offseason jobs to make ends meet.

Major League Baseball was even able to codify that into law two years ago with the “Save America’s Pastime Act” which exempted teams from paying players overtime pay, no matter how many hours they worked.

Now, MLB is going to increase pay for minor leaguers, beginning with the 2021 season. From the Associated Press:

Major League Baseball is raising the minimum salary for minor league players in 2021, according to a memo sent Friday from the commissioner’s office to all 30 teams and obtained by The Associated Press.

Two years after successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB opted to give those players a wage increase between 38% and 72%. The bump was discussed at last week’s owners meetings and confirmed in the memo from Morgan Sword, executive vice president of baseball economics and operations.

Players at rookie and short-season levels will see their minimum weekly pay raised from $290 to $400, and players at Class A will go from $290 to $500. Double-A will jump from $350 to $600, and Triple-A from $502 to $700.

Those are useful increases, to be sure. Players at the lower levels of the minor leagues often stay with host families in the cities where they play, so they don’t have housing costs.

It should be noted that these figures are paid only during the five-month minor-league season. Sure, top draft picks who receive seven-figure bonuses don’t have to worry about a few hundred dollars a week, but that’s not the case for the vast bulk of minor-league players.

I just hope that this isn’t just a bone thrown by MLB to try to distract the minor leagues from MLB’s contraction proposal. You know, “Since we’re paying minor leaguers more money, there should be fewer of them.” The MLB VP cited in the quote above is at least saying the right things:

“MLB’s priorities include reducing the travel burden on players and improving player working conditions,” Sword wrote. “These and other objectives only can be achieved with agreement of the National Association, or absent an agreement, following the expiration of the current PBA in September. However, we can move forward unilaterally with our goal of improving compensation for minor league players.”

It is a step in the right direction, to be sure, and it’s worth reading the entire article linked above for some background on this topic. Let’s hope that MLB will be more reasonable with any contraction proposal, and in the long term, pay minor leaguers even more. The moguls of a $10 billion business can readily afford it.