Hundreds of minor league baseball players were reportedly cut Thursday as Major League Baseball anticipates the cancellation of the 2020 minor league season.
Jeff Passan of ESPN reported more than 1,000 players could eventually be released because of a combination of the COVID-19 pandemic and the elimination of several minor league teams. MLB franchises were required to pay minor league players $400 per week through the end of May.
MLB has been pushing to reduce the amount of minor league teams to 120, eliminating short-season rookie ball and giving each club one representative at Single-A, High-A, Double-A and Triple-A. The plan would eliminate more than 40 teams and cut more than a thousand player jobs.
MLB teams have taken much public criticism for their treatment of minor league players in recent years, specifically because of low pay, and the chorus has grown louder during the pandemic. A number of teams are making large-scale pay cuts, including the ceasing of minor league payments. The Oakland Athletics informed players this week they would stop paying them $400 per week, beginning in June.
Oakland general manager David Forst wrote, in an email obtained by Sports Illustrated:
"Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not to continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31. This was a difficult decision and it's one that comes at a time when a number of our full-time employees are also finding themselves either furloughed or facing a reduction in salary for the remainder of the season. For all of this, I am sorry."
The 2020 MLB season is also in danger because of tense negotiations with the players union. Ownership presented a plan to significantly slash player pay, particularly high-cost talent, beyond their agreed-upon prorated salaries for the season this week.
Players have balked at the proposal.