Hundreds of Minor League Baseball Players Reportedly Released Amid COVID-19

Timothy Rapp@@TRappaRTFeatured ColumnistMay 28, 2020

The shadow of Sam Narron, left, pitching coach of the Washington Nationals Double-A Harrisburg Senators, is seen as he talks with Washington Nationals pitching coach Paul Menhart prior to a spring training baseball game against the St. Louis Cardinals, Thursday, March 5, 2020, in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Julio Cortez/Associated Press

Hundred of minor league baseball players were reportedly released Thursday, according to ESPN's Jeff Passan. 

He added the number could top 1,000 in the coming week:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

In normal years, cuts happen but not en masse like this. The fallout from the coronavirus, expected minor league contraction and the anticipated cancellation of the 2020 minor league season prompted organizations each to release dozens of players, who were being paid $400 a week.

On Tuesday, Passan reported that the Oakland Athletics had informed minor league players they would not continue paying them a $400 weekly stipend after May. Robert Murray of The Score added that the Seattle Mariners let go of over 50 players in "extensive" cuts.

According to Patrick Mooney of The Athletic, the Chicago Cubs are among the teams making roster cuts. However, the Cubs have committed to paying all of their minor-league players—even those who are released—stipends through June.

Critics of such moves will note that the savings for team owners will pale in comparison to their net worth:

Jeff Passan @JeffPassan

Just some rough math. Say there are 200 players in a minor league system. Paying each $400/week for July, July and August is $5,200 per player. To pay every minor leaguer would have cost the Oakland A's a hair over $1 million. Owner John Fisher is worth an estimated $2 billion.

Robert Murray @ByRobertMurray

Expect most teams to make minor-league cuts in coming days. Said one agent: “40 players per team just got whacked so the club could save $50k/month. This is the equivalent of trying to save money by cutting out your daily Starbucks trip but still driving an X5 you can’t afford.”

There is also the growing sentiment that MLB owners are using the COVID-19 pandemic as an excuse to push through changes they've long wanted:

Michael Baron @michaelgbaron

I feel like the pandemic has given #MLB currency to do/propose things it’s wanted for a long time. Realignment, universal DH, MILB contraction, among others. Some are fine & progressive, some are definitely not. Lives are irrevocably changed by minor league contraction.

Owners would argue that with the prospect of a shortened season or one canceled altogether—a growing possibility given the divide that exists between owners and players—they stand to lose significant revenue. 

But the optics of releasing players who are making just $400 per month—and most minor league players are paid extraordinarily low wages even when the games aren't on hiatus—aren't great for MLB ownership. Even with minimum salaries being slightly increased in 2021, the most a Triple-A player could make on that rate is $14,000 over five months (minor league players aren't paid out of season). 

And now, many players are out of a job.


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