As several teams across Major League Baseball are deciding to stop paying their minor leaguers — and in many cases releasing them — the Twins have made a commitment to theirs.
A team source confirmed Friday that the Twins have pledged to continue $400 weekly stipends and to provide full benefits to all of their minor leaguers through Aug. 31 — which nearly covers the entire originally scheduled minor league regular season. This comes amid uncertainty about the 2020 major or minor league seasons even being played.
Players and owners currently are negotiating a compensation agreement so an abbreviated major league season can be played — a negotiation that has gotten off to a rocky start.
Minor league minimum salaries range from $290 per week at Class A to $502 per week at Class AAA over the five-month season. Players on the 40-man major league roster earn more. With no games being played, they are not getting paid. And even if the major leaguers return to play, there’s no guarantees there will be a minor league season. So the stipend means a lot to them.
If Major League Baseball starts up this season, rosters are likely to be expanded far past the usual 26-player limit, especially if there is no minor league play in 2020. The Twins used 51 players last season, so some minor leaguers would have a chance to earn their pay.
“We’re going to need more than 30 allotted players or whatever it is come the start of the season,” Derek Falvey, the Twins president of baseball operations, said Thursday. “We anticipate that. We’re prepping for it.
“We’re coming up with a two-pronged approach. One is an entirely internal approach, where maybe the direction at some point is each team is going to have their own control over how they are going to work their own depth camp, so to speak.
“… And then maybe the other one is how we pivot to something that is more league-oriented. … What we can control right now is the planning among our internal group.”
The Twins have minor league affiliates in Rochester, N.Y. (Class AAA); Pensacola, Fla. (AA); Cedar Rapids, Iowa (A); Fort Myers, Fla. (A and rookie league); Elizabethton, Tenn. (rookie level); and a rookie level team in the Dominican Republic.
If there’s a major league season but no minor league season, there will be the need for extra players to somehow stay sharp while continuing to develop.
“We’ve focused on what intrasquads would look like, how we can keep guys pretty active if we weren’t playing other teams,” Falvey said. “… There’s still some question about the minor league baseball season … and what that will look like.
“At present we don’t have clarity on that, but we’re prepping as if we have to control all that ourselves, so at present our goal would be to come up with what a depth camp of say 20 to 25 players might look like and how do we keep them as active and prepared as possible in the event certainly of the normal injury in the course of the season, but also you may run into a COVID-related challenge within your environment, how do you prep for that?”
The Astros, Reds, Royals, Marlins, Padres and Mariners are among other MLB teams that have agreed to pay their minor leaguers at least through Aug. 31.
The Dodgers have agreed to pay the stipend through the end of June, but lefthander David Price reportedly has taken it a step further, pledging to pay each minor leaguer in their system not on the 40-man roster $1,000.
The Athletics, who didn’t make their $1.2 million stadium rent payment on April 1, will stop paying the stipend at the end of May — meaning Sunday. The Associated Press reports that at least 15 teams will continue stipend payments in June.
While many teams have agreed to pay the stipend, the Twins are one of two teams so far — the other being the Royals — to also pledge to not release any of their minor leaguers. ESPN has speculated that as many as 1,000 minor leaguers will be released across the league, and that purge has begun.
The Mets have let 39 minor leaguers go. The Cubs have released 30. On Friday, the Red Sox released 22 players. The Diamondbacks have released a whopping 64 players.
The White Sox, Rockies and Orioles have released players as well. In all, about 200 minor leaguers were cut on Friday and 400 have been released this month.
While millionaire players and billionaire owners tussle over the immediate future of the game, teams are starting to trim costs where they can, and minor leaguers are becoming casualties of the economic fallout.
The league also will reduce the June 10 draft from 40 rounds to five.