Thursday was a dark day for minor league baseball.
Jeff Passan, whose coverage of baseball during this entire crisis has been top-notch, reported Thursday that major league franchises had cut hundreds of minor league players and hundreds more were expected to be cut in the coming weeks.
Across baseball, hundreds of minor league players were cut today and lost their jobs, sources tell ESPN. Hundreds more will be released over the next week. In the end, upward of 1,000 players could see their baseball careers end. The minor leagues have simply been devastated.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 28, 2020
The timing of these cuts coincides with the expiration of the March agreement that included $400 per week stipends for minor league players.
The Cardinals were among the teams who cut players Thursday. As of Friday, May 29, the club had not yet announced which players were released. Most likely these players are “non-prospect” minor leaguers – players who filled depth positions for minor league clubs but were not expected to develop into major leaguers.
Cuts are common at the end of spring training as teams finalize minor league rosters for their summer campaigns. Since spring ended so abruptly and the resumption of the minor and major league seasons was uncertain, many teams waited to trim their rosters and allowed soon-to-be-cut minor leaguers to receive their stipends.
It is expected that the approaching draft will lead to a second round of roster cuts across the league.
As minor leaguers were being cut, Derrick Gold of the Post-Dispatch reported that the Cardinals had agreed to continue the weekly stipend for the remaining minor league players. The club has committed to paying that stipend through the month of June and hopes to continue the payments throughout the rest of the season, regardless of whether or not games are played.
MLB clubs have the freedom to set their own policies regarding the minor league stipend. The Oakland A’s immediately cut off funds for minor leaguers. The Padres committed to their minor leaguers through the end of August.
If you are searching for silver linings here, I have little for you. The immediate release of these players does allow them to seek unemployment, which they would not be able to pursue if MLB teams retained their rights. Also, with no minor league season, released players would be able to continue playing professionally in independent ball.
The problem, though, is that those seasons are also in doubt. On Friday, the Prospect League – which includes several independent clubs in the region (including Cape Girardeau Catfish, my hometown ballclub) – announced that they were canceling their season.
With no college ball, no minor league ball, a greatly reduced draft, minor league contraction looming, and an increasing number of independent leagues cancelling, this is a dark, dark time for the baseball as a sport.
I am way more upset about what is happening with the minor leaguers than I am with the conflict between owners & players. The players have their union to protect their rights. The owners their wealth & authority. The minor leaguers just have a dream. So very sad.
— Jason Hill (@JPHill_Cards) May 28, 2020
Baseball seems focused on the current stalemate between players and owners. The game of baseball, however, is much larger than these two parties. Players have a powerful union to represent their cause. Owners have their wealth and authority.
Who advocates for the minor leaguers?
It was the Royals and GM Dayton Moore who provided the best perspective and the most thorough action on behalf of their organizational depth.
The comment speaks for itself. I hope that the Cardinals commit to paying their minor leaguers throughout the rest of the season and that they keep as many players in their system as they can. Some of those players might turn into the next Matt Carpenter or even Jose Martinez. Others will use the coaching and training they received to craft the next generation of players as college and high school coaches and even just Little League dads.