MLB reportedly considering improving wages and conditions for minor league players

TOLEDO, OH - MAY 17:  Charlotte Knights starting pitcher TJ House (47) delivers a pitch during a regular season game between the Charlotte Knights and the Toledo Mud Hens on May 17, 2018 at Fifth Third Field in Toledo, Ohio.  (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)
Major League Baseball is reportedly considering increasing salaries and improving conditions for minor league players. (Photo by Scott W. Grau/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

A day after a report came out that the Toronto Blue Jays are planning to raise their minor league salaries by more than 50 percent, Major League Baseball is eyeing similar changes for the entire league.

Sources told ESPN’s Jeff Passan on Monday that the league has suggested a “significant increase in salaries, a higher standard of living conditions and better transportation” for minor league players.

Although the timing sounds odd at first — the league only suggested paying players more after a team first volunteered — meetings on the subject reportedly took place earlier in the year. MLB meets with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues to iron out details for minor leaguers, and their current agreement runs out in September 2020.

How much are minor leaguers currently making?

Minor leaguers currently do not make a living wage and often do not get fully compensated for their work. When Congress passed a $1.3 billion budget last March, it included a "Save America's Pastime Act," which exempts minor leaguers from federal labor laws.

Without access to overtime pay, minor leaguers are often paid as little as $1,160 per month — before considering taxes and clubhouse dues. Triple-A players make closer to $40,000, but that’s still peanuts for a league that pulled in over $10 billion in revenue last year.

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Minor leaguers have often got the short end of the stick in negotiations because they aren’t represented by the more powerful MLB Players Association. Major leaguers can be more willing to sacrifice things that don’t impact them (signing bonus limits) than things that affect them directly (smaller penalties for free agent signings).

This can leave players who have yet to reach the pinnacle of the sport having to scrape by, as several prominent writers have documented. The complete lack of pay during spring training only exacerbates this.

Why is this important for Major League Baseball?

Beyond being the right thing to do, raising the minuscule salaries for minor leaguers is important in terms of recruiting the best athletes to choose baseball.

One of the most famous baseball players of the past year was a player who will likely never suit up in a major league uniform. The Oakland Athletics drafted Kyler Murray ninth overall in 2018 but couldn’t convince him to stick to baseball, even for $4.66 million.

Yes, baseball may have fully guaranteed contracts unlike the NFL, and Bryce Harper’s record-breaking $330 million contract more than triples the most money guaranteed to a football player. But Murray would have had to play six or seven seasons in the majors to hit free agency, while making a fraction of his value. And even making it to the majors means toiling away in the minors for years on minimum wage, traveling on a crammed bus.

If baseball wants to attract the best players possible, it will have to treat all of its players more fairly. Increasing minor league salaries is a step in the right direction so that maybe in the future the next Kyler Murray won’t have to think twice about picking baseball.

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