It’s been a historic year in the world, with much of America and other countries shutting down to try to flatten the curve of COVID-19 infections. Although baseball is of a far lesser importance than most, many players in the Giants system have been left in the dark until recently on what the near future holds for them. Slowly, news has been leaking out about their status. Here is an update on what we know about their status.
- The Scottsdale facilities have been shut down as part of baseball’s procedures to protect players and staff. Even the Major Leaguers, who mostly voted to stay in Arizona have been sent home.
- Almost all Minor Leaguers have been sent home, with the team covering the travel costs for players to return (as they normally would). The only exception are players who cannot fly home due to travel restrictions. There are 15-20 players who fit that mold, according to Alex Pavlovic, most of whom are Venezuelan. Giants are providing housing and financial support for those players.
- MLB announced that they will be paying players a lump sum of the money they would have received as allowances through Spring Training. The amount wasn’t made clear, as former minor leaguers said that would amount to $25 per day ($175 per week), while the Associated Press said that players would receive an increase for about $400 per week. Baseball America wrote more about the different stipend levels.
- For Giants players, Farhan Zaidi has announced the Giants would pay their minor leaguers more than what MLB was recommending, though the amounts were not announced. Earlier this offseason, it was announced the Giants would implement raises for minor leaguers earlier than MLB mandates, and pay more than MLB would recommend.
- Major League Baseball has not yet made a determination on pay for the regular season. The minor league season was due to start on April 9th, but like all other sports, it has been postponed with no announced day to restart.
- Minor league players are struggling to find side jobs to earn money during the offseason. Former Giant prospect and minor league baseball player advocate Garrett Brosuius mentioned that DoorDash was a popular temporary job, but “there are a lot of people trying to do DoorDash right now, because there are a lot of people looking for extra hours.”
- As for the minor league teams, Baseball America is reporting that many face extreme financial troubles. While no teams were specifically identified, J.J. Cooper of BA reported that insiders suggest that 10 to 40 minor league clubs may struggle to survive the season financially, if it ever comes back. Many minor league teams are small businesses that have very low profit margins. Unlike the funds set up for the employees at Major League Stadiums, there have been no such funds for the team employees (employed by the minor league teams, not their major league affiliates). Many minor league teams are not owned by billionaires or big corporations, though some are.
- Two Giants affiliates are owned either majorly or entirely by individual families (Sacramento and Salem-Keizer). Two are owned by sports entertainment companies that own one other team (Richmond and Augusta). The fifth, San Jose, has the San Francisco Giants as the primary owner (55%) with a local ownership group owning the other 45%.
Money and minor league baseball had been a topic long before the spread of COVID-19. Last fall, it was reported that Major League Baseball had been proposing a new plan that would eliminate 42 minor league teams when the current deal between MLB and Minor League Baseball expired at the end of the 2020 season. That set off a bitter, public fight between the two organizations that was leading to brinksmanship rather than compromise.
In addition, there has been a longstanding debate about the level of pay in the minor leagues for players. Low-level players often make as little as $6,000 a full season, and are paid by the MLB organizations, not minor league teams. Players are not paid for the offseason, despite being required to stay in shape, nor are they paid for spring training, only receiving allowances for food, and sometimes housing if they choose not to live in the team hotel.
The debate has brought a lawsuit that has been in progress for a few years brought by former minor league players. MLB convinced the U.S. government to include an exception protecting baseball from minimum wage laws in the 2018 Omnibus spending bill. Public pressure from fans helped push MLB to announce they were raising wages, thought not until the 2021 season, and many argued was still far too little, and still did not include pay for the offseason or spring training.
A few initiatives have begun that fans can take part in.
Adopt a Minor League Player is an initiative that was started by a Twins fan trying to help minor leaguers, allowing fans to help support a minor league player with gift cards, donations and more.
The movement has exploded, with hundreds of players being adopted. The initiative has been covered by Sports Illustrated and SB Nation twice and has been widely praised for helping support minor leaguers, initially set up to help players during normal seasons, but especially in these trying times.
In addition, Garrett Broshuis has started a nonprofit to help, Advocates for Minor Leaguers. They hope to help minor leaguers with complaints or issues they face, and bring the strength of a group behind it.