Minor league baseball players will receive a long-awaited pay rise, starting in the 2021 regular season. The announcement was part of the new MLB minor league structure reveal, which went official on Friday morning, though most of the details have already been reported.
In MLB’s new ‘modernized player development system’, as announced in the press release, there are now 120 affiliated teams for the full season – up from 160 in 2019 – spread across four tiers: Triple-A , Double-A, High -A and Low-A. Each franchise has signed a league professional development contract, an agreement that sets standards for facilities, equipment, and working conditions for players and staff. For many franchises, that meant committing to upgrades. The restructuring also focused on geographic alignment, with the aim of reducing teams’ seasonal trips.
Here is the note in the press release that the trumpets have improved player salaries (news of the increase was first reported last February).
– Player salary increases ranging from 38 to 72% for the 2021 season.
This is a good thing. The percentages are impressive. The actual numbers, however? Not really.
Look, the increase was absolutely necessary. It has been decades since minor league baseball players have seen an increase close to this level of importance. I have written on the subject often. This is a solid and long overdue step in the right direction. But percentages don’t tell the whole story. Here are the minimum wages for each of these levels, as noted by the Associated Press.
- For High / Low-A, the weekly minimum wage drops from $ 290 to $ 500.
- For Double-A, the minimum goes from $ 350 to $ 600.
- For Triple-A, the minimum goes from $ 502 to $ 700.
Regular minor league seasons usually start at the beginning of April and end at the end of August or the first week of September, let’s call it 21 Weeks of Baseball. In 2021, the Triple-A schedule is 144 games, Double-A schedules are 138 games, and Single-A schedules are 132 games (these could still be adjusted due to the COVID-19 pandemic).
- For Single-A players, that’s $ 10,500 total salary for five months of work.
- For Double-A players, that’s $ 12,600 total pay for five months of work.
- For Triple-A players, that’s $ 14,700 in total pay for five months of work.
“Anytime there’s a pay rise it’s a good thing, but there’s still a lot to do,” said Garrett Broshuis, a former minor league pitcher turned lawyer who has a vested interest in the game. topic. “Wages have been ignored for so long that even with this increase there are a lot of players below the poverty line. … The percentages mask the fact that the amounts are actually quite small. Because they haven’t raised wages for so long, you’re only talking about a few thousand more per player, for an entire year of work.
Let’s take a look at the real net impact of these large percentage increases.
- For Single-A players, the 72% increase earns an additional $ 4,410.
- For Double-A players, the 71% increase earns an additional $ 5,250.
- For Triple-A players, the 39% increase earns an additional $ 4,158.
Before we go any further, let’s be clear to point out that the numbers just listed were strictly for regular season minimum wages. Players, especially at the Triple-A level, can earn more money, for a variety of reasons. For example, landing on the 40-player roster comes with an automatic increase – players are immediately covered by the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and MLBPA and earn $ 46,000 per year on their first MLB contract, in playing among minors. For a second MLB contract, the minimum rises to $ 93,000. Players who have signed minor league free agent contracts can earn a lot more money.
Also, these salary figures do not include signing bonuses for draft picks or international free agents, which can be significant (although they have been tightened in recent years). Most minor league players, of course, don’t enter professional baseball with $ 1 million signing bonuses.
And let’s be clear that these salaries are paid by the parent club, not the owners of the minor league franchises. The Phillies gave Bryce Harper a 13-year, $ 330 million contract in February 2019, and they also pay their top fielder an annual salary of $ 10,500.
In 2018, when the NBA’s G League announced a sharp increase in the minimum wage for its players, we made a comparison. League G is the best (and only) official minor league in the NBA, so we compared these salary figures to the Triple-A minimums and minimums set by the AHL hockey players, which is the best affiliated minor league. in the NHL.
The numbers were striking. Now, after the MLB announced bump, let’s review that.
The G League minimum wage is still $ 7,000 per month, or $ 35,000 for a five-month season. There are 29 G League teams, with 10 players per roster. As with Triple-A players, G League players can earn a lot more money, depending on a variety of factors. Players on Team Ignite, elite prospects who are not yet eligible for the NBA Draft but don’t want to play college basketball, can win over $ 500,000.
AHL hockey players have the advantage of a union (the Association of Professional Hockey Players) which was founded in 1968. Minor league baseball players, as you probably know, have been lonely for a long time. . They aren’t under the MLBPA umbrella until they join the 40-man roster or the Big League club, and tackling the Minor Leaguers has never been a priority. for big league players (Broshius works with Advocates for Minor Leaguers, a group trying to fill this lack of representation).
The ABC sets a minimum wage for an AHL player during the 2021-2022 season at $ 52,000 for an 80-game schedule, with a per diem of $ 81 on the road. The AHL roster includes 23 players, 20 of whom are active per game. Due to the pandemic, that the figure has traded at a low of $ 30,000 this season, but it is expected to return to normal levels in the future. As with Triple-A and League G, veteran AHL players, guys with NHL experience and other mitigating factors, can earn a lot more than the minimum (the league ABC specifically says that there is no maximum).
So let’s recap, in graphical form.
It’s quite a difference, isn’t it?
“The gap is pretty drastic,” Broshuis said. “But at the same time, it doesn’t seem like too much to ask, for players close to the big leagues, often playing in front of 9,000 or 10,000 fans, to earn $ 50,000 for a year of work. These guys should be paid a decent salary.
Back to a few points. Considering what the wages had been, adding $ 4,410 to a Single-A salary that was $ 6,090 is a big increase. Without a doubt. We should all be so lucky to experience a similar percentage increase in our wages every now and then. MLB is moving in the right direction. Hopefully it doesn’t stop, because these wages are still too low.
Consider, for starters, that players don’t get paid during spring training, other than a per diem. They get no pay when they train, play games, and go through team-prescribed strengthening and conditioning programs. In a normal (non-pandemic) year, a player could show up for spring training at the end of February, work every day on his trade to start the season, play games and pay for his accommodation alone and not see a check. payroll for six or seven years. weeks, until the minor league season begins in April. And it’s not like spring training is optional.
This is not new, of course. This is how it always has been. But what other business works this way? The teams say to their minor leaguers this, “We’re going to need you to show up and work for free for six or seven weeks before we pay you a salary.” It’s the same for the big league players, but they have higher per diems and, of course, earn very healthy salaries during the season.
“This has to change,” Broshuis said.
And, realistically, these wage increases still leave minor league players around (or under) the mandatory minimum wage in the United States. A weekly salary of $ 500 for a single-A player comes in at $ 12.50 an hour, based on a five-day-a-week, 40-hour workweek. But baseball players don’t work just five days a week, or just eight hours a day. Each week includes at least six days of play, with seven weeks for most. The days are long, with strength and conditioning work, fieldwork, cage work, and travel – don’t forget the bus rides – and it’s easy to start envisioning weeks of work. 60 hours minimum. We are now down to $ 8.33 per hour. It’s under minimum wage laws in 29 states and the District of Columbia.
Again, this is a step in the right direction. Let’s just hope the next step isn’t decades away.