The Houston Astros are footing the housing bill for minor league players across all levels of the organization this season, according to Brittany Ghiroli of The Athletic.
Every minor-league player in the system has been provided with a furnished apartment, a departure from the norm as clubs do not typically pay for housing in home cities. However, amid COVID-19 restrictions that limit the number of roommates and the involvement of host families, the Astros have installed a program that "is believed to be unprecedented" and allows players to "use their salaries on other living expenses," per Ghiroli.
To abide by COVID-19 restrictions, players are living in housing pods that can be as small as just two total players, and they cannot ride to the stadium with players they don't live with. Their families can join them when traveling but, in some cases, are on their own when it comes to housing, per Ghiroli.
The Astros have four minor league affiliates: Fayetteville Woodpeckers, Asheville Tourists, Corpus Christi Hooks and Sugar Land Skeeters. The team also fields a club in the Gulf Coast League.
The low salary of minor league players has long been a hot topic around the league. They received a boost when MLB decided to move on from 40 affiliated teams—weekly salaries grew from $290 to $500 at the Class-A level, while Triple-A players earn $700 per week, up from $502. In Double-A, salaries increased from $350 to $600.
However, minor leaguers are not paid in the offseason.
Per Ghiroli, teams across MLB have offered players stipends to manage the cost of living, but the Astros' housing assistance appears to be a first.