Minor league raises could easily be more than they were raised

On Friday, Major League Baseball announced that in 2021, they plan to raise the minimum salary for minor league players. The headline, of course, wasn’t meant to be the actual amounts associated with the raises. No, it was the fact that these wage bumps for range from 38 to 72 percent. Those are big increases, which must mean a lot more money for minor leaguers, right? Well, not so much. According to the Associated Press, “[p]layers at rookie and short-season levels will see their minimum weekly pay raised from $290 to $400, and players at Class A will go from $290 to $500. Double-A will jump from $350 to $600, and Triple-A from $502 to $700”. Major League Baseball, a multi-billion-dollar industry that recently added another digit to that tagline, tossed somewhere between $110-$250 extra dollars a week to minor leaguers.

The newest smoke-and-mirror regarding minor league pay is predicated almost entirely on the idea that percent changes are more important than raw pay increases. MLB hopes that you, the pesky person that just wants minor leaguers to receive a living wage, won’t come to the realization that 50 percent more than $1 is still just $1.50. And while this trick isn’t sticking quite like MLB hoped it would, the real trick is surrounds hiding the idea that MLB teams cannot afford real, substantive pay increases. The real trick surrounds their faux inability to pay minor leaguers a living wage.

To see this, let’s start with MLB’s newly announced plan. Prospect and Philadelphia Phillies guru Matt Winkelman broke down the new raises and their associated cost to both teams and the MLB overall:

What he found was that the yearly cost to an organization was just over $718,000, while the cost to Major League Baseball was about $21.5 million. But remember, in terms of revenue, the average MLB organization took in just under $330 million in 2018, while MLB took in $10.7 billion overall. Considering that context, the cost of MiLB wage increases represent 0.2 percent of an average MLB team’s revenue, and 0.2 percent of the league’s overall revenue. Put another way, in order to pay full-season minor leaguers $4300-$5500 more per year and Short-Season/Rookie-ball players $1320 more per year, MLB is setting aside 1 penny for every $5 they make in revenue.

It bears repeating. Major League Baseball, a multi-billion-dollar entity, is giving minor leaguers a minimum wage increase that is akin to tossing minor leaguers one penny for every 5 dollars the league makes in revenue.

If you are simmering with rage after reading that line, don’t worry — you’re not alone.

Once my anger subsided, I started thinking; what would it cost every MLB team to ensure all their minor leaguers are earning a living wage? To answer this question, I built a web scraper that pulled off all the team affiliations for each MLB team from MiLB’s own website. This gave me a more reliable count for some of the more non-standard levels like rookie ball and short-season. I then cross-referenced the count of affiliated teams at each level with the maximum number of roster spots allotted for that same level, as listed again at MiLB’s own website. Here is my rough estimate for the maximum number of minor league players each organization can have at any given time:

MiLB Full Roster Allotment

MLB Team AAA AA A (Adv.) A SS R Total
MLB Team AAA AA A (Adv.) A SS R Total
Arizona Diamondbacks 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Atlanta Braves 25 25 35 35 0 105 225
Baltimore Orioles 25 25 35 35 35 70 225
Boston Red Sox 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Chicago Cubs 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Chicago White Sox 25 25 35 35 0 105 225
Cincinnati Reds 25 25 35 35 0 140 260
Cleveland Indians 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Colorado Rockies 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Detroit Tigers 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Houston Astros 25 25 35 35 35 70 225
Kansas City Royals 25 25 35 35 0 175 295
Los Angeles Angels 25 25 35 35 0 105 225
Los Angeles Dodgers 25 25 35 35 0 140 260
Miami Marlins 25 25 35 35 35 70 225
Milwaukee Brewers 25 25 35 35 0 105 225
Minnesota Twins 25 25 35 35 0 105 225
New York Mets 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
New York Yankees 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Oakland A’s 25 25 35 35 35 70 225
Philadelphia Phillies 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Pittsburgh Pirates 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
San Diego Padres 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
San Francisco Giants 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Seattle Mariners 25 25 35 35 35 70 225
St. Louis Cardinals 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Tampa Bay Rays 25 25 35 35 35 140 295
Texas Rangers 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Toronto Blue Jays 25 25 35 35 35 105 260
Washington Nationals 25 25 35 35 35 70 225

Now, before we get into salary, we need to understand a little more about this roster allotment table:

  • Class A and Class A Advanced can only have 25 active players, but 35 under club control. I opted to assume 35 players for both A and high-A ball because I’d rather overestimate a team’s contribution than underestimate
  • I assume MLB teams are paying the same wages for the Dominican Summer League (DSL), but (from what I understand) that’s not necessarily true because a player’s labor takes place in a different country
  • I assume every AAA and AA player are not on the 40-man roster (again, this isn’t ever the case, but it only serves to make MLB’s contribution look larger than it would normally be, so I left it alone. As a reminder, the pay for players who make the 40-man roster is substantially higher)

The main thing to understand is that no team ever has every roster spot filled, but we’re trying to pinpoint the absolute maximum amount a team would have to spend with a given raise. So, because all our effort is being put toward assuming higher contributions than would actually exist, it’s fair to assume that MLB’s contributions to MiLB salary only stand to be lower than our estimates, not higher.

After creating the roster table, we needed to make assumptions about the number of weeks each level will play (and get paid). This seems like an opportune time to note that minor leaguers don’t get paid during the offseason or Spring Training. Even the ones invited to spring training. The very real games and the very real practices the very real minor league baseball players attend are apparently fake in the eyes of the league. In terms of the actual span of paid weeks, I think Winkelman had the right idea to assume 22-weeks for A-ball through AAA-ball and 12-weeks for Short Season and Rookie ball. I stuck with those numbers, even if they leave out a couple weeks for playoff runs.

Finally, I took the raise amount on a per-week basis for each level and multiplied it by the number of players each team had at each level. For the minimum wage raise MiLB is getting in 2021, here is what I found each team’s maximum contribution to be:

Projected Cost of Current MiLB Minimum Raise

MLB Team AAA ($700/week) AA ($600/week) A (Adv.) ($500/week) A ($500/week) SS ($400/week) R ($400/week) Total
MLB Team AAA ($700/week) AA ($600/week) A (Adv.) ($500/week) A ($500/week) SS ($400/week) R ($400/week) Total
Arizona Diamondbacks $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Atlanta Braves $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $138,600 $708,400
Baltimore Orioles $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400
Boston Red Sox $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Chicago Cubs $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Chicago White Sox $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $138,600 $708,400
Cincinnati Reds $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $184,800 $754,600
Cleveland Indians $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Colorado Rockies $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Detroit Tigers $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Houston Astros $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400
Kansas City Royals $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $231,000 $800,800
Los Angeles Angels $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $138,600 $708,400
Los Angeles Dodgers $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $184,800 $754,600
Miami Marlins $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400
Milwaukee Brewers $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $138,600 $708,400
Minnesota Twins $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $0 $138,600 $708,400
New York Mets $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
New York Yankees $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Oakland A’s $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400
Philadelphia Phillies $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Pittsburgh Pirates $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
San Diego Padres $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
San Francisco Giants $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Seattle Mariners $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400
St. Louis Cardinals $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Tampa Bay Rays $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $184,800 $800,800
Texas Rangers $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Toronto Blue Jays $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $138,600 $754,600
Washington Nationals $108,900 $137,500 $161,700 $161,700 $46,200 $92,400 $708,400

Not much different from Matt’s findings, but here is where we will differ.

Let’s kick things up a notch.

In an attempt to maintain a structure where higher divisions are paid more than lower divisions (which makes a fair amount of sense), let’s extrapolate out from the current wage increases. What if MLB had doubled their new minimum minor league wage across the board? How much would that cost each individual team?

Projected Cost of Raise 2x New Weekly Minimum Salary

MLB Team AAA ($1400/week) AA ($1200/week) A (Adv.) ($1000/week) A ($1000/week) SS ($800/week) R ($800/week) Total
MLB Team AAA ($1400/week) AA ($1200/week) A (Adv.) ($1000/week) A ($1000/week) SS ($800/week) R ($800/week) Total
Arizona Diamondbacks $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Atlanta Braves $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $642,600 $2,697,400
Baltimore Orioles $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400
Boston Red Sox $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Chicago Cubs $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Chicago White Sox $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $642,600 $2,697,400
Cincinnati Reds $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $856,800 $2,911,600
Cleveland Indians $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Colorado Rockies $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Detroit Tigers $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Houston Astros $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400
Kansas City Royals $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $1,071,000 $3,125,800
Los Angeles Angels $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $642,600 $2,697,400
Los Angeles Dodgers $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $856,800 $2,911,600
Miami Marlins $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400
Milwaukee Brewers $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $642,600 $2,697,400
Minnesota Twins $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $0 $642,600 $2,697,400
New York Mets $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
New York Yankees $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Oakland A’s $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400
Philadelphia Phillies $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Pittsburgh Pirates $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
San Diego Padres $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
San Francisco Giants $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Seattle Mariners $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400
St. Louis Cardinals $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Tampa Bay Rays $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $856,800 $3,125,800
Texas Rangers $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Toronto Blue Jays $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $642,600 $2,911,600
Washington Nationals $493,900 $467,500 $546,700 $546,700 $214,200 $428,400 $2,697,400

What if they were quadrupled?

Projected Cost of Raise 4x New Weekly Minimum Salary

MLB Team AAA ($2800/week) AA ($2400/week) A (Adv.) ($2000/week) A ($2000/week) SS ($1600/week) R ($1600/week) Total
MLB Team AAA ($2800/week) AA ($2400/week) A (Adv.) ($2000/week) A ($2000/week) SS ($1600/week) R ($1600/week) Total
Arizona Diamondbacks $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Atlanta Braves $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $1,650,600 $6,675,400
Baltimore Orioles $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400
Boston Red Sox $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Chicago Cubs $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Chicago White Sox $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $1,650,600 $6,675,400
Cincinnati Reds $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $2,200,800 $7,225,600
Cleveland Indians $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Colorado Rockies $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Detroit Tigers $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Houston Astros $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400
Kansas City Royals $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $2,751,000 $7,775,800
Los Angeles Angels $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $1,650,600 $6,675,400
Los Angeles Dodgers $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $2,200,800 $7,225,600
Miami Marlins $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400
Milwaukee Brewers $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $1,650,600 $6,675,400
Minnesota Twins $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $0 $1,650,600 $6,675,400
New York Mets $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
New York Yankees $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Oakland A’s $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400
Philadelphia Phillies $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Pittsburgh Pirates $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
San Diego Padres $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
San Francisco Giants $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Seattle Mariners $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400
St. Louis Cardinals $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Tampa Bay Rays $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $2,200,800 $7,775,800
Texas Rangers $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Toronto Blue Jays $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,650,600 $7,225,600
Washington Nationals $1,263,900 $1,127,500 $1,316,700 $1,316,700 $550,200 $1,100,400 $6,675,400

What if MLB multiplied the new 2021 minimum MiLB salaries by a factor of 8?

Projected Cost of Raise 8x New Weekly Minimum Salary

MLB Team AAA ($5600/week) AA ($4800/week) A (Adv.) ($4000/week) A ($4000/week) SS ($3200/week) R ($3200/week) Total
MLB Team AAA ($5600/week) AA ($4800/week) A (Adv.) ($4000/week) A ($4000/week) SS ($3200/week) R ($3200/week) Total
Arizona Diamondbacks $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Atlanta Braves $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $3,666,600 $14,631,400
Baltimore Orioles $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400
Boston Red Sox $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Chicago Cubs $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Chicago White Sox $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $3,666,600 $14,631,400
Cincinnati Reds $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $4,888,800 $15,853,600
Cleveland Indians $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Colorado Rockies $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Detroit Tigers $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Houston Astros $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400
Kansas City Royals $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $6,111,000 $17,075,800
Los Angeles Angels $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $3,666,600 $14,631,400
Los Angeles Dodgers $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $4,888,800 $15,853,600
Miami Marlins $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400
Milwaukee Brewers $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $3,666,600 $14,631,400
Minnesota Twins $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $0 $3,666,600 $14,631,400
New York Mets $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
New York Yankees $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Oakland A’s $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400
Philadelphia Phillies $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Pittsburgh Pirates $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
San Diego Padres $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
San Francisco Giants $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Seattle Mariners $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400
St. Louis Cardinals $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Tampa Bay Rays $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $4,888,800 $17,075,800
Texas Rangers $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Toronto Blue Jays $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $3,666,600 $15,853,600
Washington Nationals $2,803,900 $2,447,500 $2,856,700 $2,856,700 $1,222,200 $2,444,400 $14,631,400

But what if we looked at the above salaries in relation to an average MLB teams’ overall revenue:

All-in-all, the cost of paying minor leaguers a living wage right now would go largely unnoticeable to every team in MLB. And it’s not like this is some new phenomena. This has been a true statement for quite some time. MLB teams, who pay the salary of every minor leaguer, have always had the ability to improve the living conditions of 7,500 people almost instantaneously. They have always had the ability to give minor leaguers the means to avoid living seven to eight people in a two-bedroom apartment, eat better, pay their student loans, provide for their families, etc.

Yet, for years, MLB has done nothing. They have said nothing. Well, that is, unless you’re a member of Congress who can codify that minor leaguers are exempt from federal minimum wage laws. If that is you, I’m sure you’ve heard from the commissioner’s office quite a bit.

Well, that was until this offseason, when MLB hatched a plan to cut out 42 affiliated minor league teams. Then, as if they had an epiphany, MLB seemed to care quite a bit about the working and living conditions of their minor leaguers. In the course of a month commissioner Rob Manfred and some ownership groups became a dystopian form of Minor League Truthers. So long as it was the minor leagues that assumed the brunt of the cost, it was imperative to address the poor facilities, minor leaguer pay, and travel schedules! Never mind that, again, MLB wouldn’t miss the money associated with a raise 8x the one they just issued:

Again, nothing had actually changed. Rob Manfred and the owners never changed their beliefs about the minor leaguers. When there were costs to be cut and money to be made, Manfred tried to seize on an opportunity to wage a public PR battle against the minor leagues based largely on the idea that nobody really knew MLB paid the salaries of minor leaguers. Not only was the problem of low minor league pay MLB’s own making, MLB spent weeks just straight-up lying about how the cutting of 42 minor league teams was necessary to pay higher wages. When it benefited the owners, Manfred put on the face and assumed the words of what he thought a bleeding-heart labor advocate sounded and acted like. But this isn’t some TV show; you can’t undergo a personality change just by putting on a fake mustache and glasses.

Manfred and the owners play these games because, at the end of the day, Manfred and the owners don’t give a shit about minor leaguers. The owners, as billionaires or near billionaires, are not viewing minor league labor relations in a vacuum. Many have a history of exploitative and/or anti-labor practices too long to list, which is ostensibly the only way you can accrue over a billion dollars to yourself. They know just how to screw over the little guy (particularly the non-union ones), because most have been doing it all their lives.

As for Manfred? He built his career as a pro-business labor lawyer. You know, the kind who worked for an anti-labor law firm like Morgan, Lewis, and Bockius, a group whose services include helping clients, “…avoid union penetration, and strategically shape bargaining units to minimize potential union organizing victories.” He is also a man that had this to say in 2018 about why minor leaguers shouldn’t be paid in the offseason or Spring Training, despite clear training requirements and/or Spring Training reporting requirements:

“You know, look: I think that the way that we think about it—okay—is that we provide playing opportunities for minor-league players. It’s a six-month job. Just like entertainers often work six months at a pop. The other six months are the responsibility of the employee! They’re just not our responsibility.”

At the end of the day, one thing is undeniably true: MLB can afford to pay minor leaguers more than a living wage right now. If Manfred sent out a directive tomorrow that said every minor leaguer was to receive $50,000 annually, not a single team would miss the money needed for that raise. MLB is choosing an incremental path to higher minor league wages not because it’s necessary, but because it is the bare minimum. They could choose to completely change the lives of 7,500 players at any given moment, yet they don’t for the same reason that the New York Mets won’t allow their minor league team to use a new $57 million facility.

Like the Mets, MLB qualifies their cruelty with this idea that higher earnings are within a minor leaguers grasp if they just work hard enough. It’s the same argument large companies use when they pay their interns nothing (If you just work hard this is temporary; higher pay will come if you just let us exploit you now!). In reality, the money is there because the money is always there. It’s a function of Capitalism that tricks the worker into thinking the greater good benefits when the owner keeps all the fruits of the labor.

When you consider the fact that other professional sports leagues are able to pay a living wage to their minor leaguers, only one conclusion is to be made. Major League Baseball is choosing to pay their youngest, most at-risk players poverty wages. Some of these kids are high school graduates, international signings, college graduates with student loans, human beings with young families. 40 percent of drafted players and 37 percent of players signing internationally receive signing bonuses of $10,000 or lower.

For pennies on the dollar, Major League Baseball could forever change the lives of 7,500 people. The only reason they haven’t is because, plain and simple, they just don’t want to. This isn’t just morally wrong, it’s economically wrong. Never let them trick you into thinking anything else.


Shawn Brody is a graduate student and contributor for Beyond the Box Score. You can find him on Twitter @ShawnBrody, where he likes to yell about New York Mets.

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