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MLB to pay minor league players a uniform stipend until at least April 9

Players make their way to a field during spring training.
Players make their way to a field at the Chicago Cubs’ spring training facility in Mesa, Ariz., in 2017.
(Morry Gash / Associated Press)

The minor leaguers are going to get paid.

After the Dodgers and several other teams agreed to continue paying weekly spring training stipends to minor leaguers even after spring training had been called off, Major League Baseball announced Thursday that all minor leaguers would receive allowances owed through April 8, in a lump-sum payment.

Furthermore, the league said in a statement that it would work with teams to develop “an industry-wide plan for minor league player compensation from April 9 through the beginning of the coming season.” The minor league season was scheduled to start April 9.

The money is critical for minor leaguers, who are not paid during the offseason. The current minimum minor league salaries range from $290 per week in rookie leagues, where the season lasts three months, to $500 per week in triple-A, where the season lasts five months.

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For Major League Baseball, the coronavirus hiatus could have the unintended consequence of thrusting the issue of low minor league pay into the spotlight.

MLB is working with the Major League Baseball Players Assn. to determine how and when major league players might be paid this year. The minor leaguers are not represented by a union, and the baseball season — in both the majors and minors — will not start before mid-May. The major league season had been scheduled to start March 26.

The delay could last into June or beyond. While MLB might reasonably extend its season into the fall, the minor league season traditionally concludes by Labor Day.

In the statement, the league said it would work with major league teams “to identify additional ways to support those players as a result of the delayed 2020 season.”

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In the absence of an announcement, GoFundMe pages and grassroots efforts had sprung up to help minor leaguers meet ends. The MLB’s help now, in time of crisis, comes after the league — which takes in an estimated $11 billion in annual revenue — had successfully lobbied for a law that required minor leaguers to be paid minimum wage but exempted teams from having to pay for overtime, including six- and seven-day weeks, and for any time outside the regular season. MLB also has threatened to eliminate 42 minor league teams next season — and the approximately 1,000 player jobs that come with them.

In this week alone — the first full week since the coronavirus shutdown — the league has set up a $30-million fund to assist ballpark workers suddenly out of work, has announced donations to organizations that feed children and senior citizens, and now has agreed to provide financial compensation to minor league players.

Stipends for minor league players vary by team. According to Baseball America, each team determines its own allowance — $300 per week for the Arizona Diamondbacks, and $400 for the St. Louis Cardinals, for example — but the MLB statement Thursday said the league would “create a level of uniform compensation.”

The league set $400 per week as a standard for now, Baseball America reported.


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