This is the latest installment of a series in which the FanGraphs staff rounds up the latest developments regarding the COVID-19 virus’ effect on baseball.
Some Minor Leaguers Have Pay Extended, While Others Still Await Word
With the end of the month rapidly approaching, major league baseball teams are running into a deadline of sorts for whether or not they will continue to pay minor league players in the midst of what is all but certain to be a cancelled MiLB season. One of the first teams to announce their decision on this matter was the Oakland A’s, and as my colleague Dan Szymborski discussed in his Wednesday roundup, the news wasn’t positive — A’s minor leaguers will not receive their $400-per-week stipends after May 31. That set a rather ominous tone, but fortunately, many teams in the past 48 hours have come forward with renewed guarantees to their prospects. Here’s a table of what we know about which teams have promised future stipends to minor leaguers, and for how long.
|Blue Jays||May 31|
|Red Sox||May 31|
|White Sox||June 30|
There are 14 teams here that haven’t yet guaranteed pay to minor leaguers past the end of May, and while Oakland is the only organization to have explicitly stated that they won’t make those guarantees, the clock is ticking for the rest to sort out their own plans. It’s difficult to say which direction these teams might lean. Some teams, such as the Rockies and Tigers, have set a good track record during the pandemic for paying employees, while others, such as the Reds and Pirates, have already furloughed some non-playing personnel, which might hint at the decisions they’ll make when it comes to minor leaguers. As for the Dodgers’ prospects, they’ll be getting an extra boost from one of the newest members of the organization.
Can confirm the report from @FrancysRomero10 that David Price will pay each non-40-man minor leaguer in the Dodgers’ system $1,000 for the month of June. That’s just over 200 players. An extraordinary gesture.
— Alden Gonzalez (@Alden_Gonzalez) May 29, 2020
Price’s gesture is indeed incredibly generous, and also reinforces the fact that a decision by any team to cease minor league stipends is utterly inexcusable. As ESPN’s Jeff Passan pointed out with regard to the A’s, paying every minor leaguer in an organization through August amounts to a fraction of what teams would pay a backup utility infielder for one year. It’s money that every team has, and the benefit in saving it is microscopic compared to the consequences it has for the players who suddenly lose an already-meager paycheck. And unfortunately, the bad news for minor leaguers doesn’t stop there…
Teams Announce Massive Cuts Among Minor League Ranks, With Hundreds More To Come
A rapidly growing number of teams have begun to release minor leaguers in large groups, according to reports from several baseball scribes. Robert Murray reported a list of 11 teams that are known to have made cuts, and Passan reported that those cuts are far from finished. Some of these cuts are similar to those teams make every spring, as camp playing time battles resolve and minor league rosters come into focus. In some cases, however, the cuts have been much more aggressive.
The Mariners’ recent minor-league cuts were extensive. They released more than 50 players, according to sources.
— Robert Murray (@ByRobertMurray) May 28, 2020
The Diamondbacks have let go 64 minor leaguers in recent days. Tough days in baseball. They hadn’t let go any minor leaguers in spring as they usually do. The Dbacks also have committed to pay the $400 weekly stipend to holdover minor leaguers thru at least June. @EmilyCWaldon
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) May 29, 2020
More than 1,000 players could be cut by the time the dust is settled, according to ESPN, and the circumstances in which they are being released are likely to have life-changing consequences. In a typical season, players who are cut have plenty of opportunities to continue playing and trying to climb the baseball ladder, be it in another team’s farm system, or with an independent or foreign league. During the pandemic, however, those other opportunities don’t exist. Some players will be able to land jobs the next time baseball is back to full speed — whenever that may be — but many won’t. A lot of players will see their careers end because of this, for reasons none of them could have seen coming.
Players Expected To Formally Respond To MLB Proposal Soon
The MLBPA is expected to unequivocally reject pay cuts in its response to MLB’s re-opening proposal, which the union is expected to deliver by the end of the week. Players will reportedly argue to receive the prorated salaries they agreed to in March, as well as a schedule of more than 100 games, instead of the 82 suggested by MLB.
Earlier this week, MLB submitted a proposal to the players in which pay cuts are doled out on a sliding scale, with the richest players taking a nearly 80% reduction from what their normal full-season salary would be, and well over 50% less than their prorated salary. (Craig Edwards broke down the economics of the proposal for FanGraphs yesterday.) That proposal was viewed almost unanimously as a farce by the players, with Max Scherzer — a member of the union’s executive subcommittee — sharing a strongly worded response on Twitter Wednesday night.
— Max Scherzer (@Max_Scherzer) May 28, 2020
Scott Boras was also explicit in his reaction to MLB’s proposal, reportedly telling the players, “Remember, games cannot be played without you. Players should not agree to further pay cuts to bail out the owners. Let owners take some of their record revenues and profits from the past several years and pay you the prorated salaries you agreed to accept or let them borrow against the asset values they created from the use of those profits players generated.”
Based on the dates aspired to in the initial proposal, MLB will want to have something sorted out quickly. Its re-opened “spring training” period is intended to start in mid-June, with the regular season beginning sometime around July 4.
Mexican Baseball League To Begin August 7
The Mexican Baseball League announced in a statement Thursday that it will be holding a 48-game season lasting from August 7 to October 1, with a 12-team expanded playoff taking place from October 3 through early November. The current plan appears to include allowing fans to attend games, but the statement says the plan will be “constantly updated” according to guidelines set by health institutions.
Premier League Sets Return Date
England’s Premier League is set to resume its season on June 17, according to a statement on the league’s website. A full round of matches is expected to take place the following weekend, as the league attempts to complete the remaining 92 games on its schedule. Those games will take place without fans in attendance.
The Premier League has been suspended since March 13 because of the COVID-19 pandemic. In its statement, the league said a return to play will only happen if all necessary safety measures are in place.
Boston Marathon Cancelled for First Time In History
The Boston Marathon, originally scheduled for April and then pushed back to September 14 because of the pandemic, has officially been cancelled. In lieu of the race, willing participants are encouraged to complete the 26.2-mile distance remotely in a span of six hours, and submit proof of their time. If they do so between September 7-14, they will be sent a complete race program, shirt, medal, and runner’s bib.
NFL Commissioner Hopes Coaches Can Return To Facilities Next Week
In an Associated Press report, National Football League commissioner Roger Goodell stated that the virtual offseason will be extended another two weeks, and that he hoped coaches would be able to return to work in their organization’s facilities next week. Players are still banned from gathering for the foreseeable future, but Goodell said the owners and the players’ association were “developing protocols that will allow at least some players to return to your facilities on a limited basis prior to the conclusion of the offseason program.”
Tony is a contributor for FanGraphs. He began writing for Red Reporter in 2016, and has also covered prep sports for the Times West Virginian and college sports for Ohio University's The Post. He can be found on Twitter at @_TonyWolfe_.