Tampa Bay Rays
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Report: Rays giving $800 to minor leaguers to help with expenses

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According to a player source for More Than Baseball, an organization focused on assisting minor league players, the Rays will give every one of their minor leaguers $800 in a one-time payment to help with expenses while operations are shut down because of the Coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic. While it is certainly better than nothing, and it’s great that the Rays acted on their own without waiting for a league directive, it is not enough.

The Rays have nine minor league teams, though the lower level teams play fewer games and have fewer roster spots. As a very rough estimate, we may be talking about 250 players, which amounts to a $200,000 overall expenditure for the Rays. Even the small-market Rays have a team value in excess of $1 billion, according to Forbes. A 15-year TV deal with Fox that began last year will pay the Rays $87 million per year on average.

$800 helps, but it barely covers a month of rent, even if a player is sharing an apartment with others. Considering all of the other expenses players have — utilities, Internet, food, transportation/gas, etc. — like all of us, they will tear through that $800 in the first month just for basic living necessities. And they will still be expected to remain in shape despite not being allowed to use team facilities in order to slow the spread of the virus (the right call).

Every team should be following the Rays’ lead here, but the amount given to minor leaguers needs to be much greater than $800. Frankly, the Rays and the 29 other teams can’t afford not to provide more. Some — probably many — of their minor leaguers will have to take public-facing jobs in the interim in order to keep the lights on, like giving instructions, stocking shelves, driving for a rideshare app, etc. In doing so, they become vectors for spreading the infection, making it harder for us to flatten the curve. That’s why some, including Ilhan Omar, have suggested an emergency universal basic income (UBI). There was already a moral imperative before to pay minor leaguers more, but there certainly is now as we stare down the barrel of a pandemic.

MLBPA: MLB’s ‘demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected’

Rob Manfred and Tony Clark
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On Thursday evening, the Major League Baseball Players Association released a statement regarding ongoing negotiations between the owners and the union. The two sides continue to hash out details concerning a 2020 season. The owners want a shorter season, around 50 games. The union recently proposed a 114-game season that also offered the possibility of salary deferrals.

MLBPA executive director Tony Clark said that the union held a conference call that included the Executive Board and MLBPA player leaders. They “resoundingly rejected” the league’s “demand for additional concessions.”

The full statement:

In this time of unprecedented suffering at home and abroad, Players want nothing more than to get back to work and provide baseball fans with the game we all love. But we cannot do this alone.

Earlier this week, Major League Baseball communicated its intention to schedule a dramatically shortened 2020 season unless Players negotiate salary concessions. The concessions being sought are in addition to billions in Player salary reductions that have already been agreed upon.

This threat came in response to an Association proposal aimed at charting a path forward. Among other things, Players proposed more games, two years of expanded playoffs, salary deferrals in the event of a 2020 playoff cancellation, and the exploration of additional jewel events and broadcast enhancements aimed at creatively bringing our Players to the fans while simultaneously increasing the value of our product. Rather than engage, the league replied it will shorten the season unless Players agree to further salary reductions.

Earlier today we held a conference call of the Association’s Executive Board and several other MLBPA Player leaders. The overwhelming consensus of the Board is that Players are ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions that could affect the health and safety of not just themselves, but their families as well. The league’s demand for additional concessions was resoundingly rejected.

Important work remains to be done in order to safely resume the season. We stand ready to complete that work and look forward to getting back on the field.

As per the current agreement signed in March, if there is a 2020 season, players will be paid on a prorated basis. Thus, fewer games means the players get paid less and the owners save more. MLB has threatened to unilaterally set a 2020 season in motion if the two sides cannot come to terms. It should come as no surprise that the union has responded strongly on both fronts.

There have been varying reports in recent days over the confidence in a 2020 season happening. The MLBPA’s statement tonight doesn’t move the needle any; it simply affirms that the union remains steadfast in its goal to avoid a second significant cut in salaries.

As I see it, the ball is in the owners’ court. The owners can strongarm the players into a short season, saving money but significantly increasing the odds of a big fight in upcoming collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Or the owners can eat more of a financial loss, agreeing to a longer season than they feel is comfortable. The latter would have the double benefit of not damaging overall perception of the sport and would not disrupt labor peace going forward.

The MLBPA statement included a declaration that the players are “ready to report, ready to get back on the field, and they are willing to do so under unprecedented conditions.” If there is no 2020 season, we will have only the owners to blame, not the players.

Update: Cardinals pitcher Jack Flaherty, who has been quite vocal on social media about these negotiations, chimed in: