Dayton Moore
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Doing the bare minimum becoming a competitive advantage

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For years in this space, I’ve argued that even ignoring any moral imperatives, it is sound business sense for teams to treat the players in their organizations well. That means paying them a livable wage, making sure they can maintain healthy diets, and so on. Healthy, motivated, unstressed minor leaguers are more likely to become productive major leaguers than their less healthy, demotivated, stressed counterparts.

The coronavirus pandemic and ensuing shutdown of baseball across the country has created another way in which teams can separate themselves. Recently, many teams released handfuls of minor leaguers as the league plans to cut upwards of 40 minor league teams. Teams agreed to pay the minor leaguers in their organization a $400 per week stipend through the end of May and all but one team (the Athletics) agreed to extend that at least through the end of June. The Royals pledged to pay their minor leaguers through the end of the season, Jon Heyman reported two weeks ago.

On May 29, Royals GM Dayton Moore was on a conference call with local members of the media. Per The Athletic’s Alec Lewis, this is what Moore had to say this about the minor leaguers:

Understand this: The minor league players, the players you’ll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High-A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game than 10-year or 15-year veteran players. They have as much opportunity to influence the growth of our game as those individuals who played for a long time because those individuals go back into their communities and teach the game, work in academies, are JUCO coaches, college coaches, scouts, coaches in pro baseball. They’re growing the game constantly because they’re so passionate about it. So we felt it was really, really important not to release one minor league player during this time, a time we needed to stand behind them.

The 2020 MLB draft is today. According to MLB.com’s Jeffrey Flanagan, the Royals’ decision to do the bare minimum — retaining their minor leaguers and paying them a $400 per week stipend for three more months — is becoming a competitive advantage. Flanagan says the Royals are in “prime position” to attract and sign top non-drafted players. An unnamed agent Flanagan spoke to said, “KC knows how to treat players. They do it right.”

Conversely, teams that chose to take the easy way out may not have as much success attracting talent. The A’s initially chose not to pay their minor leaguers their June stipend but reversed course after receiving a hefty amount of criticism. The Nationals tried to reduce the amount of their minor leaguers’ stipend to $300 per week, but also reversed course upon receiving heaps of criticism. Some players may take notice of the teams’ instincts to take from their players and choose to take their talents elsewhere.

There are many more ways in which players can keep tabs on organizational treatment. Does the team avoid being cutthroat in arbitration hearings? Does the team value players sleeping well and eating healthy? It’s the bare minimum for doing business with other human beings, but because MLB teams have set the bar so low, certain teams are finding opportunities to stand out just by being decent.

Brewers have 3 positive COVID tests at alternate site

Jeff Hanisch-USA TODAY Sports
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MILWAUKEE — The Brewers had two players and a staff member test positive for the coronavirus at their alternate training site in Appleton, Wisconsin.

Milwaukee president of baseball operations David Stearns confirmed the positive results Saturday and said they shouldn’t impact the major league team. Teams are using alternate training sites this season to keep reserve players sharp because the minor league season was canceled due to the pandemic.

Stearns said the positive tests came Monday and did not name the two players or the staff member. Players must give their permission for their names to be revealed after positive tests.

The entire camp was placed in quarantine.

“We have gone through contact tracing,” Stearns said. “We do not believe it will have any impact at all on our major league team. We’ve been fortunate to get through this season relatively unscathed in this area. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to get all the way there at our alternate site.”

Milwaukee entered Saturday one game behind the Reds and Cardinals for second place in the NL Central, with the top two teams qualifying for the postseason.

The Brewers still will be able to take taxi squad players with them on the team’s trip to Cincinnati and St. Louis in the final week of the season. He said those players have had repeated negative tests and the team is “confident” there would be no possible spread of the virus.

“Because of the nature of who these individuals were, it’s really not going to affect the quarantine group at all,” Stearns said. “We’re very fortunate that the group of players who could potentially be on a postseason roster for us aren’t interacting all that much with the individuals that tested positive.”