Minor League Baseball announced Tuesday that all players will continue to receive a $400 weekly allowance through May 31 or the minor league opening day, whichever comes first. The decision extended a statement made on March 19, which paid players $400 weekly through April 8.
“Advocates for Minor Leaguers,” a recently founded group of minor league players, called on March 17 for the MLB to provide wages that comply with federal standards for minimum wage.
“We believe MLB should be paying every minor leaguer wages that comply with federal minimum wage standards, or roughly $15,000 per season,” Advocates for Minor Leaguers representative Raul Jacobson said in an email Wednesday. “Sadly, MLB’s decision to pay minor leaguers $400/week, which equates to roughly $9,000 for the season, stands to be a raise in pay for most minor leaguers. For others, however, $400/week means drastic and unexpected lifestyle changes to make ends meet.”
According to the group’s news release, it wants to “provide a collective voice for minor leaguers, to advocate on their behalf, and to educate the public about the struggles that the players face.”
Jacobson, a former minor league pitcher for the Brooklyn Cyclones, a New York Mets affiliate, said the group “applaud(s) MLB for stepping up and providing financial support to minor leaguers during the COVID-19 shutdown,” but said the $400 weekly allowance is “only a small step in the right direction.”
Nine Purdue alumni currently play in the minor leagues, most notably Matt Frawley, who has spent the last two years pitching for the New York Yankees’ minor league teams.
A typical minor league salary, according to ESPN, can range anywhere from $4,800 to $14,000 per season, depending on the player’s level and organization. The weekly minimum ranges from $290 at class A to $502 at Triple-A over the course of the five-month season. This means that some players are being paid almost twice as much as they would during the regular season, while others must make lifestyle changes to adapt to a smaller paycheck.
The allowance is meant to help players cover the cost of food, housing and training, per ESPN. Players were instructed to leave their spring training facilities two weeks ago, and many could not afford to find other housing, as they had not been paid since the end of the 2019 season. Players are not paid a salary in the offseason, and during spring training they “receive only whatever housing, food and allowances, stipends and/or per diems their teams issue from the time they report to camp through the start of the minor league regular season,” according to Baseball America.
The standardized allowance could be in response to the organization’s demands, or to an ongoing class-action lawsuit that began back in 2014 to fight for higher pay for players.
Garrett Broshuis, a former pitcher for the San Francisco Giants who is now a practicing lawyer in St. Louis, is representing the players in the lawsuit.
“There is no reason why players should be making below-poverty-level wages in an industry with over $10.7 billion in revenue, or that they should be forced to work through spring training without pay, or that they should be forced to cram six guys into a two-bedroom apartment sleeping on air mattresses,” Broshuis said in a March 20 ESPN article about the advocacy group.
The advocacy group “works closely with other current and former MLB and MiLB players, labor activists and media professionals,” according to its website.
The allowance does not cover players with major league contracts. The Major League Baseball Players Association reached a deal with the MLB to provide $170 million in advance salaries to that group.
The MLB said it would reevaluate after May 31 if the season has not yet begun, per Jacobson.