Minor League Baseball players are being released in bulk amid coronavirus-related financial issues for the league.
Sources told ESPN, The Score and The Athletic that hundreds of players were released Thursday. Some teams released as many as 64 players and more releases are expected. The moves signal a potential cancellation for the 2020 MiLB season.
“Just got that call a little bit ago,” former Chicago Cubs minor leaguer Brock Stewart tweeted Thursday. “Very tough to hear and realize. I’m not done though. I’m ready to go. I’ll be ready whenever. I have worked hard and got better. This [expletive] will not get the best of me.”
Teams teams typically release players in March after minor league spring training. MLB and MiLB transactions show that a total of 301 players were released at that time last year. This year, 131 minor league players were released in March.
Sources told ESPN minor league team owners have started to fire front-office and game-day workers in recent weeks. The Professional Baseball Agreement — a pact that governs MiLB’s relationship with MLB — has also been suspended, a move that prevents MLB clubs from providing players to their MiLB teams.
MLB teams agreed to pay MiLB players $400 per week in April and May, which was a large pay cut for many players. The Oakland Athletics told their minor league players this week that they would no longer receive those payments in June. About 25 percent of the 30 MLB teams teams have said they will pay minor leaguers through June. The San Diego Padres, Miami Marlins and Seattle Mariners have pledged to pay minor league players through August.
MLB and MiLB each suspended their seasons in mid-March due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
Minor league salaries are drastically lower than MLB salaries. Some MiLB players have voiced their concerns about the end of their baseball careers and have taken up other jobs since the leagues were suspended. MLB teams have 200 to 250 minor leaguers under contract every year.
A $400 weekly stipend for 250 players costs $100,000 per week per team. MLB franchises have an average value of $1.85 billion, according to Forbes. The New York Yankees are the most-valuable franchise, at $5 billion. The Marlins are valued at $980 million, the lowest valuation of any team.
“Who knows what’s going to happen with the MILB/pay so I decided to start driving with DoorDash tonight,” tweeted Peter Bayer, a minor league pitcher for the Athletics. “$62 in three hours. Not too bad.”
The Score obtained an email sent to Athletics minor leaguers from general manager David Frost on Tuesday.
“Unfortunately, considering all of the circumstances affecting the organization at this time, we have decided not continue your $400 weekly stipend beyond May 31,” Frost wrote. “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 this, I am sorry.”
MLB and the players’ association are in negotiations for plans to play the 2020 season. The season was scheduled to start March 26.