COVID-19 Roundup: MiLB Reportedly Willing To Concede Loss of Teams

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.

MiLB Is Closer to Accepting Contraction in Wake of Pandemic

Small baseball communities around the country were delivered a bit of a gut punch on Tuesday, when Baseball America’s J.J. Cooper reported that Minor League Baseball is nearing an agreement with Major League Baseball that would result in the loss of 40 affiliated teams. The Associated Press put out a similar report Tuesday, while Minor League Baseball itself released the following statement.

The statement seems intended to temper public reaction, though it doesn’t exactly reaffirm MiLB’s commitment to keeping the total number of affiliated teams at 160 (MLB’s proposal would reduce the number to 120). MLB’s proposal was first introduced back in October, with the league claiming it would help teams boost minor leaguers’ pay, as well as improve their quality of life by reducing travel distances and guaranteeing higher-quality facilities. Public reaction to the plan, however, decried it for what it more appeared to be — a money-saving move for the league and the owners. But advancing that goal would result in far fewer players having a place in affiliated professional baseball, not to mention the millions of Americans who would find themselves without reasonable in-person access to the sport itself, as Meg Rowley and Ben Clemens wrote about for this site in November.

But the entire professional baseball landscape looks much different now than it did a few months ago. The impact of the lost revenues of months, and possibly an entire season, of baseball is making itself felt at the major league level. The circumstances are much more dire for minor league teams, which are suddenly under threat of extinction not only from the commissioner’s office but the COVID-19 pandemic as well. As a new Professional Baseball Agreement is negotiated, MiLB could place enough value in insuring the long-term security of existing teams that it is willing to accept contraction for those on the chopping block.

Most Teams Guarantee Employee Pay Through May, Some Go Further

A long list of teams have come forward in recent days to tell non-player employees that they will continue to receive paychecks and benefits through the end of May, this after the Uniform Employee Contract was suspended by MLB, allowing teams to initiate furloughs and pay reductions. The table below shows how long each team has committed to paying its employees, as of the writing of this story.

Which Teams Are Paying, and for How Long?
Team Date Paid Through
Arizona Diamondbacks May 31
Atlanta Braves May 31
Baltimore Orioles May 31
Boston Red Sox May 31
Chicago White Sox May 31
Chicago Cubs May 31
Cincinnati Reds May 31
Cleveland Indians April 30
Colorado Rockies Indefinitely
Detroit Tigers Indefinitely
Houston Astros May 31
Kansas City Royals May 31
Los Angeles Angels May 31
Los Angeles Dodgers April 30
Miami Marlins May 31
Milwaukee Brewers May 31
Minnesota Twins May 31
New York Yankees May 31
New York Mets May 31
Oakland Athletics April 30
Philadelphia Phillies May 31
Pittsburgh Pirates April 30
San Diego Padres Oct. 31
San Francisco Giants May 31
Seattle Mariners May 31
St. Louis Cardinals May 31
Tampa Bay Rays April 30
Texas Rangers May 31
Toronto Blue Jays May 31
Washington Nationals April 30

About two-thirds of baseball has guaranteed pay to their employees through May 31, while the other third fall into a different boat. Some smaller-payroll teams, such as the Indians, Rays, and A’s, have yet to extend a commitment to their employees beyond the end of April; a couple of the league’s larger-market teams, such as the Dodgers and Nationals, haven’t either. The Padres, meanwhile, have reportedly told employees that they will be kept on board for the entirety of the scheduled season, with the stipulation that employees making more than $60,000 a year will be subject to a pay cut. Similarly, the owners of the Rockies and Tigers have reached out to employees to inform them there are no plans for furloughs or lay-offs, though they didn’t give the specific end-of-season date the Padres did.

Players Angry About Pay Cut in Case of Empty Stadiums

The MLB Players Association is reportedly upset with comments made by Mets COO Jeff Wilpon to New York Governor Andrew Cuomo regarding further pay cuts for players if fans aren’t allowed to attend games this year, according to an Associated Press report on Monday. In its response to the claims by Wilpon, MLBPA union head Tony Clark said, “Players recently reached an agreement with Major League Baseball that outlines economic terms for resumption of play, which included significant salary adjustments and a number of other compromises. That negotiation is over.”

Craig Edwards wrote today about the weakening labor peace between the owners and players as the two sides continue to pursue the best path forward.

Fund Raised to Support Low-Ranked Tennis Players

More than $6 million is being raised by tennis’ governing bodies to assist lower-ranked players around the globe while the COVID-19 pandemic prevents play, according to the New York Times. The fund includes $1 million from the Australian Open, U.S. Open, Wimbledon, and the French Open, as well as men’s and women’s tours. In addition to money given by those bodies, the game’s top earners such as Novak Djokovic, Roger Federer, and Rafael Nadal have suggested a sliding scale of relief aid to be raised by the top 100 men’s singles players.

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_.

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Spa City
3 years ago

MLB seems intent on turning College Baseball into the new Minor League system. And I have absolutely no problem with that. NBA and NFL do it, and everybody LOVES college basketball and football.

Eliminating many of the low level minor leagues, and severely reducing the Rule 4 draft will funnel many more high schoolers into college.

I could be misinterpreting MLB’s actions and intentions. But I believe the effect will be to strengthen College Baseball. And also to reduce the costs of player development.

3 years ago
Reply to  Spa City

They don’t give a flip about college baseball. It’s a move to cut the number of player salaries they have to pay by a full affiliate’s worth per team, plus the associated cuts in coaching and scouts. High school players will still get drafted, generally any prep players taken in lower rounds go to college anyway.

It doesn’t help find new talent, it doesn’t help more players realize the dream, and it doesn’t help grow the sport of baseball.

Spa City
3 years ago
Reply to  K26dp

I think it will be great for college baseball.

3 years ago
Reply to  K26dp

” It’s a move to cut the number of player salaries they have to pay by a full affiliate’s worth per team, plus the associated cuts in coaching and scouts. ”

But they’re also giving up the revenue that those teams had.

If your response is “but the salaries are way higher than the revenue in the low minors”, then how can you blame the owners for getting rid of them?

3 years ago
Reply to  Spa City

Lord knows the NCAA could use some money.

3 years ago
Reply to  Spa City

I and many others don’t give a flying fuck about college football.