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Wednesday, May 27, 2020

A’s Tell Minor Leaguers They Won’t Be Paid for the Remainder of the Season

The A’s informed their minor league players on Tuesday that they will not continue to pay them after May 31, according to an email obtained by Sports Illustrated. This means the next paycheck these players receive will come next April.

Under the terms of their contracts, major and minor league players only get paid during the season. The coronavirus pandemic suspended baseball during spring training, a period during which players receive only their daily meal money. (Minor leaguers are poorly compensated at the best of times: Minimum salary ranges from $290 per week for rookie leaguers—$3,480 for a three-month season—to $500 per week for players at Triple A—$10,000 for a five-month season.) On March 31, the 30 teams decided to pay minor leaguers $400 per week through May 31. Oakland will be ceasing these payments at the end of the month, it said, although it will continue to subsidize the players’ health insurance.

“Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not to continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31,” read the email, sent by GM David Forst. “This was a difficult decision and it’s one that comes at a time when a number of our full-time employees are also finding themselves either furloughed or facing a reduction in salary for the remainder of the season. For all of this, I am sorry.”

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 27, 2020 at 10:39 AM | 45 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: athletics, coronavirus, minor league

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   1. RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: May 27, 2020 at 12:43 PM (#5953840)
I can't believe Kyler Murray opted for football over this!
   2. Rally Posted: May 27, 2020 at 01:25 PM (#5953855)
It boggles the mind that players who are no longer paid would not immediately become free agents. Not that anyone’s likely to sign them now, except maybe in Korea. But it seems any baseball rules that hold players to club would be ripe for a challenge.
   3. Traderdave Posted: May 27, 2020 at 03:51 PM (#5953909)
A buddy of mine has a son in another team's system. He got an email today saying he's not getting paid, so apparently it's not just the A's.
   4. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: May 27, 2020 at 04:13 PM (#5953913)
So unemployment is or is not possible? I know the minor league umpires were told to file end of March. But I thought players in a lot of states were ineligible.

   5. McCoy Posted: May 27, 2020 at 04:57 PM (#5953928)
How is the minor league reserve system legal?
   6. Crispix Attacksel Rios Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:04 PM (#5953929)
I think it's legal because you can always leave baseball and pursue another profession, and the teams all treat players the same way. If this "not paying people" thing actually varies from team to team, besides being bad it is going to look pretty illegal.
   7. Rally Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:21 PM (#5953935)
Actually, i think it looks more illegal if it doesn’t vary by team. But that’s what an anti-trust exemption can do for you.
   8. Rally Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:26 PM (#5953938)
If I were a minor leaguer I’d strongly consider finding legal representation to argue that if they don’t pay, they cannot in any way prevent me from finding a contract with another team. But problem is the prospects think they’ll be back on track next year so don’t rock the boat. And the non-prospects will just get released and mysteriously find no other team wants them anymore.
   9. Baldrick Posted: May 27, 2020 at 05:37 PM (#5953941)
Yeah, the main problem here is that they have no leverage. Well, that and the anti-trust exemption. The two main problems...
   10. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 27, 2020 at 06:43 PM (#5953957)
If this "not paying people" thing actually varies from team to team, besides being bad it is going to look pretty illegal.
Some teams are paying their Minor Leaguers beyond May 31:
The Phillies will keep paying their minor leaguers through at least June, but likely at less than the current $400 stipend. The White Sox are paying $400 per week through the end of June, and the Marlins have committed to paying their minor leaguers the full $400 per week through August — the would-be conclusion of the 2020 minor league season.
. . .
The Padres will also pay their minor leaguers the $400 weekly stipend through the end of August . . .
Of course, we can’t expect all teams to keep up with the deep pockets of the Marlins & Padres.
   11. Rally Posted: May 27, 2020 at 09:00 PM (#5953989)
Bad as it is, but maybe the minor leaguers not paid will end up with more - 600 per week - through unemployment. Plus whatever the state gives them, if they are eligible.
   12. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 28, 2020 at 08:19 AM (#5954048)
If I were a minor leaguer I’d strongly consider finding legal representation to argue that if they don’t pay, they cannot in any way prevent me from finding a contract with another team.
What other team? Nobody outside of KBO is playing. (Okay, maybe CPBL too?) Now, any team that is in a league that doesn't have an agreement with organized baseball, they could play for. But any league that does, they won't sign the player regardless of whether the player himself is contractually bound to his minor league team.
   13. Adam Starblind Posted: May 28, 2020 at 08:54 AM (#5954051)

If I were a minor leaguer I’d strongly consider finding legal representation to argue that if they don’t pay, they cannot in any way prevent me from finding a contract with another team. But problem is the prospects think they’ll be back on track next year so don’t rock the boat. And the non-prospects will just get released and mysteriously find no other team wants them anymore.


One 39-year-old at AAA clearly at the end of the road would make a fine lead plaintiff in a class action. Or a top prospect, with guts, that nobody would blackball due to his value.* That covers everyone without anyone else sticking their neck out.

*PC is so ingrained that I almost just wrote "his or her." Do the Colorado Silver Bullets still play?
   14. Traderdave Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:06 AM (#5954052)
UPDATE to post 3:

Buddy's son is getting paid through June 30, one month longer than A's system.
   15. Rally Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:26 AM (#5954055)
*PC is so ingrained that I almost just wrote "his or her." Do the Colorado Silver Bullets still play?


I'm looking forward to the day when OOTP has a field for gender for players. They do have it for coaches. Probably just a programming time issue on their part, they'd have reference the variable in all their scripts. I've seen a few of their message boards on the issue, which unfortunately devolves into someone bringing up the physical differences and telling us such an event is unpossible.

I'm no PC warrior, but that is totally irrelevant to a simulation. It's your world and if you want to have jawas and yodas and hobbits and elves and decepticons all playing alongside humans in a baseball game, why not have women too? In my league most players are male but there are a few exceptions, such as a 6'4 slow moving power hitting 1B named Brienne, from the kingdom of Tarth. Beyond that, even if you were super into realism, maybe someone just wants to set up a historic replay of the AAGPBL (League of Their Own).
   16. Rally Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:29 AM (#5954056)
What other team? Nobody outside of KBO is playing. (Okay, maybe CPBL too?) Now, any team that is in a league that doesn't have an agreement with organized baseball, they could play for. But any league that does, they won't sign the player regardless of whether the player himself is contractually bound to his minor league team.


The way I see it, doesn't matter if another team is hiring to sign him right now. If you don't pay the player the contract is broken, and the minor leaguer should be free to sign with another team whenever play eventually resumes.
   17. Steve Balboni's Personal Trainer Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:31 AM (#5954057)
How much money a week are MLB teams saving by doing this? If each team has something like 125 minor-leaguers in their system, that's ~$50K/week in minor-league pay, or a little over $200K/month. If they did that for the next four months, that's ~$800K per team. They can't afford that? How much will it cost them fora single legit lawsuit by a player who says something about this is illegal? If paying ~$800K over four months to keep your future talent accountable and happy-ish is financially untenable, then I get why they are looking to cut salaries beyond the pro-rated levels the players want.

Also: Can the minor-leaguers file for unemployment? I presume so. If so, between the $600/week add-on from the federal government, plus the state-level benefit, minor'leaguers are definitely making more by filing for unemployment than they are getting paid by MLB teams. Just sayin'.
   18. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:37 AM (#5954058)
The way I see it, doesn't matter if another team is hiring to sign him right now. If you don't pay the player the contract is broken, and the minor leaguer should be free to sign with another team whenever play eventually resumes.
You're missing the point of my second statement. There are three kinds of teams:
1) Other teams in organized ball.
2) Teams in other leagues that have agreements with organized ball.
3) Teams in leagues with no such agreements.

Teams in categories 1 and 2 — the vast majority of teams — will not sign such a player even if he is "free" to sign with another team. He is already free to sign with a team in category 3, but that of course is not a good deal for him.
   19. Rally Posted: May 28, 2020 at 09:54 AM (#5954061)
I don't think that's right. Other teams would not sign these players because their understanding is that they can get away with the situation. If a case went to court and the ruling came down that players not paid were free agents, do you think other teams would refrain from signing top prospects like Jesus Luzardo or A.J. Puk (they had cups of coffee late last year so might be considered MLBers now - for sake of argument substitute the next best prospects if you prefer.)

I think we'd have a situation more like that of Travis Lee in 1996 - drafted 2nd overall by Minnesota. They screwed up by not offering him a contract in time, and he was declared a free agent. A few months later he signed with the Diamondbacks.

   20. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 28, 2020 at 10:08 AM (#5954064)
He was declared a free agent by MLB. MLB would not be declaring any of the people we're discussing to be free agents.
   21. Ron J Posted: May 28, 2020 at 10:28 AM (#5954069)
#20 Not a challenge but an honest question. Is it your contention that Rally's hypothetical player could not get the courts to declare him a free agent?

I guess I'm surprised that you appear to think that such an approach is DOA. Is it as simple as a mandatory arbitration clause for disputes of this nature?
   22. Rally Posted: May 28, 2020 at 10:36 AM (#5954072)
MLB does not have the power to overturn a court decision. They probably would appeal it long enough to turn prospects into has-beens.

Here’s my theoretical timeline, for a fictional pitcher I’ll call Steve Nebraska, who has the stuff and command of Strasburg when he was drafted.

May 2020 - his organization says it will no longer pay minor leaguers.
June - Nebraska files a court case asking to void the contract due to team’s decision.
2020 offseason - Court rules in Nebraska’s favor. MLB certainly does not like this. Somehow appeal process finishes and the ruling stands.
With a miracle vaccine invention, MLB ready to resume normal operations in 2021

Spring 2021 - Nebraska holds showcase to line up bidders. Teams can treat him as a free agent, or not. They could decide that only his original team will offer a contract, and for no more than he would have been paid originally. If so, Nebraska has a clear cut collusion lawsuit in front of him, the kind that MLB has lost before and paid substantially for.
   23. Stevey Posted: May 28, 2020 at 11:01 AM (#5954083)
Bad as it is, but maybe the minor leaguers not paid will end up with more - 600 per week - through unemployment. Plus whatever the state gives them, if they are eligible.


They ain't.
   24. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 28, 2020 at 11:05 AM (#5954089)
That tweet is wrong. "Under contract" is not the test for unemployment. Just like the people who say, "I've been furloughed rather than laid off." My answer is: so what? Are you being paid? If not, you're eligible. It doesn't matter what the employer calls it.

(To be clear, there may be some other reason that they're ineligible, but it's not because of that.)
   25. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 28, 2020 at 11:09 AM (#5954091)

Rally is apparently trying to re-overturn the reserve clause. But if his theory were right, Mr. Nebraska could've been a free agent at any time by just refusing to play for the team that drafted him.
   26. Rally Posted: May 28, 2020 at 11:25 AM (#5954097)
I don’t think Nebraska can get out of the contract when the team is willing to pay him, even if paying peanuts. It’s the team that is breaking the contract by not paying him. And once broken, they can’t force him back into it once games resume and they are willing to pay.
   27. Ron J Posted: May 28, 2020 at 11:29 AM (#5954100)
#25 But don't they actually have to pay him? I guess that's covered by the contract -- being unable to play due to circumstances beyond their control.

I have to say, I'd like Rally to be correct but I know which of you has actually dealt professionally with employment law. I'm just trying to understand the legal underpinnings.

But I do know this, courts aren't terribly interested in hearing cases if there is some kind of mandatory arbitration in a contract. As long as said arbitration is procedurally fair that is.
   28. Adam Starblind Posted: May 28, 2020 at 12:49 PM (#5954119)

#25 But don't they actually have to pay him? I guess that's covered by the contract -- being unable to play due to circumstances beyond their control.


I assume there's something of that nature, or else nobody would be willing to stop paying their 125 minor leaguers to see their best ones leave. I would love to see the language though--"even when we stop paying the consideration we owe you, you are still bound by all of your obligations." Sounds "unconscionable" in the language of the law, though it's always difficult to abrogate a contract provision on that basis.
   29. Pops Freshenmeyer Posted: May 28, 2020 at 01:04 PM (#5954125)
This document appears to be a copy of a (the?) Minor League Uniform Player Contract. Section VI.B. specifies that the contract is year round but compensation is only during the season. This is, I suppose, the source of the conflict over spring training and minimum wage laws.
   30. Ron J Posted: May 28, 2020 at 02:06 PM (#5954159)
#29 Link didn't work for me but I found the document based on the title.

Seems pretty clear language as to when they are to be paid.

As I thought, the dispute mechanism is appeal to the commissioner (and includes "The decision of the Commissioner shall be final and the Player agrees and understands that the decision of the Commissioner may not be challenged in any federal or state court or any other tribunal.")

I don't like any given player's chances. #28 offers both a basis for taking it to the court and what I think is a good estimate of the chance of prevailing.

All that to say minor leaguers get screwed again and it's not likely that there's anything they can do about it.
   31. Jeremy Renner App is Dead and I killed it Posted: May 28, 2020 at 03:31 PM (#5954181)
Thanks to multiple for the feedback on unemployment for minor leaguers. I had multiple guys who are in different systems tell me they were denied. I obviously took this without challenging but wanted to check. So again, muchas gracias.

   32. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 29, 2020 at 02:54 PM (#5954380)
A roundup on how teams are handling minor league pay. It seems that only the A’s are cutting off payments on May 31, saving $1.3M over the remainder of the season. Some MLB players have stepped up, including David Price offering $1,000 to each Dodger non-40-man roster minor leaguer. That’s ~ 220 players.
   33. Walt Davis Posted: May 29, 2020 at 08:27 PM (#5954438)
David Price offering $1,000 to each Dodger non-40-man roster minor leaguer.

I assume we have some tax experts here who can provide a real answer but I suspect this has tax implications for both Price and the players, even if it's just filing a bunch of 990s or something. Maybe set it up as a charitable foundation.
   34. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: May 30, 2020 at 07:27 AM (#5954468)
It has no tax implications for Price or the players. Recipients of gifts aren't taxed. Givers of gifts are, but the threshold before that kicks in in 2020 is $15,000. That's for an individual recipient, not total. So if Price is giving $1,000 to one person or to 100 people each, he's fine.

Of course, he can't get a charitable deduction for those gifts, but that's sort of the opposite of a tax implication. You can't get a charitable deduction even by creating a foundation (which is the only way one would need to file a 990) because there's no deduction for gifts earmarked for specific individuals. Now, if there were a general "Minor League Baseball Player Assistance Foundation" and he gave unrestricted donations to that charity, to be spent on minor league players generally, he could get such a deduction, but he couldn't direct his contributions to be given to each member of the Dodgers organization if he wanted the deduction.


EDIT: When I said that it had no tax implications for Price or the players, I was assuming that Price is doing it as a gift to the players. If he was making them mow his lawn and clean his pool for the money, then he'd just be their employer and it would be ordinary income tax.
   35. puck Posted: May 30, 2020 at 02:30 PM (#5954507)
Twins, Royals, Astros and Reds to pay minor leaguers for entire year

If you were told four teams were doing that and you had to guess which ones, would any of those teams be among your guesses?
   36. The Yankee Clapper Posted: May 30, 2020 at 06:07 PM (#5954531)
In addition to the pay issue, a large number of minor leaguers have been released. Some are decisions that would have normally been made at the end of spring training, but many teams appear to have cut much deeper with the prospect of no games this year. The Diamondbacks reportedly topped the list, releasing 64 players.
   37. Rally Posted: June 01, 2020 at 08:38 AM (#5954667)
Of course, he can't get a charitable deduction for those gifts, but that's sort of the opposite of a tax implication. You can't get a charitable deduction even by creating a foundation (which is the only way one would need to file a 990) because there's no deduction for gifts earmarked for specific individuals. Now, if there were a general "Minor League Baseball Player Assistance Foundation" and he gave unrestricted donations to that charity, to be spent on minor league players generally, he could get such a deduction, but he couldn't direct his contributions to be given to each member of the Dodgers organization if he wanted the deduction.


I understand why the rule is in place - to stop rich old farts and their brats from cheating the inheritance taxes. But sometimes it really looks crazy. David Price probably paid something like a 40% combined tax rate when he earned the money, and would have to pay again on the net if he gave someone more than 15k.
   38. Ron J Posted: June 01, 2020 at 09:06 AM (#5954671)
#4 DMN knows far more about employment law than I do, but it's certainly possible that there are specific regulations on minor league baseball based on the fact that it's in effect seasonal employment.

   39. Rally Posted: June 01, 2020 at 09:59 AM (#5954676)
Every year hundreds of failed prospects are released and their roster spots filled with new players. I can imagine people who right the laws not wanting to see a guy who hit .180 in rookie ball going on unemployment, and claiming that his search for jobs in his field are not yielding results. They want that kid to go into another line of work. There are certainly challenges when the situation we find ourselves in is vastly different than when the laws are set up.
   40. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 01, 2020 at 11:48 AM (#5954724)
I appreciate the flattery, Ron, but unemployment law is state specific so I couldn't directly speak to most of these people. As I noted above, the fact that they're under contract is irrelevant, but there could be other legal reasons for denying unemployment. Seasonality is not an automatic disqualifier. However, one is generally only eligible for unemployment if one has worked a sufficient amount of time and earned a sufficient amount of money in the recent past, and that may disqualify many of the players. (That work doesn't have to be for the immediate employer that laid one off, but it must add up to the state specific threshold.) However to the however: the CARES pandemic relief act eliminated some of those threshold requirements for unemployment ineligibility (as well as other restrictions; independent contractors can get relief under CARES when they couldn't under normal unemployment law). But of course even ordinary workers fully eligible are having a lot of trouble obtaining benefits, because of the overwhelming numbers of applications, so baseball players saying that they're not getting benefits could be victims of that as opposed to legal ineligibility.
   41. Ron J Posted: June 01, 2020 at 01:09 PM (#5954743)
#40 Yeah I could see sheer volume causing an issue.

In Canada there is a federal directive saying in effect, don't sweat the paperwork. Pay the claims and we'll sort it out later.

I think it makes all kinds of sense given that we're dealing with volumes that the system wasn't designed for.
   42. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 01, 2020 at 01:53 PM (#5954757)
In Canada there is a federal directive saying in effect, don't sweat the paperwork. Pay the claims and we'll sort it out later.
Reportedly, that sort of policy in Washington state paid out ~$300M in fraudulent claims to an organized crime ring before being discovered. Apparently, all that personal data hacked in various online security breaches finally came in handy.
   43. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: June 01, 2020 at 03:39 PM (#5954775)
Ron, it's not even processing the paperwork. They're using such old systems, and are so understaffed (for the volume of recent months), that people can't even submit claims.
   44. Ron J Posted: June 01, 2020 at 04:56 PM (#5954793)
Ouch. Yeah that was a problem up here too for a while. Hard to believe our systems were more adaptable. I think they repurposed a lot of people to get through the worst of the submissions backlog.
   45. The Yankee Clapper Posted: June 06, 2020 at 02:34 AM (#5955765)
The A’s have now reversed course, and will pay their minor leaguers:
Owner John Fisher told Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle on Friday that not only will the A’s pay their minor leaguers for the first week of June, but they’ll continue to receive weekly pay through the end of the scheduled minor league season.

“I’ve listened to our fans and others, and there is no question that this is the right thing to do,” Fisher said to Slusser. “We clearly got this decision wrong. These players represent our future and we will immediately begin paying our minor-league players. I take responsibility and I’m making it right.”

Additionally, while many major league teams have been releasing droves of minor leaguers, Fisher informed Slusser that the A’s have not discussed doing so.

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