One of the most horrifying aspects of the way the 2020 season has come together has been the systemic dismantling of Minor League Baseball. It started with a battle over cutting teams in the offseason that MLB looked poised to lose, until the pandemic provided an opportunity for teams to cut costs on the backs of their lowest paid employees. As I write this it is unclear if the Cubs and 15 other teams will pay their minor league players beyond June.
There are 5 days left until MiLB stipends expire for these teams. Pay your Minor Leaguers. pic.twitter.com/VzZJsxYUhV— Advocates for Minor Leaguers (@MiLBAdvocates) June 25, 2020
Additionally, if a player was not lucky enough to be named to the 60-man “summer camp” roster, it’s unclear when they will get their next opportunity to play.
But buried in the details of taxi squad compensation is this astonishing figure reported by Jeff Passan last week: those lucky top prospects who make the taxi squad will be paid $40 a week:
Here’s what he means: As part of the March agreement, MLB advanced players $170 million in salary. That money was divvied up into four categories. Players with guaranteed contracts received $286,500. Those with minor league splits in their deals received $60,000, $30,000 or $16,500. Players on their team’s 40-man roster for the first time, like top Atlanta prospect Cristian Pache, received the lowest sum.
Pache’s contract calls for a $46,000 minor league split. That’s in a full season. In this partial season, if he spends its entirety not on the Braves’ active roster, Pache would be due a salary of around $17,000. Meaning he could spend the next three months playing baseball — July training, August and September staying ready — for a grand total of about $500.
While it’s true Pache received the remainder of that money as an advance, the idea of him receiving $40 a week — pretax — is comical. So is the fact that there are plenty more young players on 40-man rosters in the exact same position.
$40 a week.
I spent $48 (pretax) on two bottles of my favorite wine over the weekend. I’m not sure that $40 would cover delivery from my favorite taco place if I splurged and added guac. It is embarrassing in the extreme that top prospects in baseball will be compensated so poorly as they risk their lives to play baseball during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The billionaires who own baseball teams have long traded on the hopes and dreams of minor leaguers to justify unconscionably low salaries while they work their way through farm systems in the hopes of landing a shot in the majors. And I am sure the Christian Pache’s of the world will be taken care of by their teammates over the next few months of the 2020 season. But this compensation scheme is just one more slap in the face of players who may be part of the MLBPA during the next negotiation of baseball’s Collective Bargaining Agreement, and moves like this ensure that will be an exceedingly ugly fight.