MLB to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle lawsuit

Adam Cairns/Columbus Dispatch / USA TODAY NETWORK
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NEW YORK — Major League Baseball agreed to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle a federal lawsuit alleging violations of minimum wage laws, a case that progressed through the courts for eight years without reaching a trial.

An early estimate is that perhaps 23,000 players could share the money with an average payment of $5,000 to $5,500, according to a filing by Brian Kriegler, the players’ damages expert. More precise totals will not be calculated until notice is given to eligible players.

The deal, announced May 10, was filed Friday with the U.S. District Court in San Francisco. Chief Magistrate Judge Joseph C. Spero must approve the settlement, a step that usually is routine in this type of case.

“This settlement is a monumental step for minor league players toward a fair and just compensation system,” Garrett Broshuis, the players’ lead lawyer and a former minor league pitcher, said in a statement. “I’ve seen first-hand the financial struggle players face while earning poverty-level wages – or no wages at all – in pursuit of their major league dream.”

If approved, $120,197,300 will be split among the players, $55.5 million will go the the players’ lawyers and up to $5.5 million will cover reimbursement costs of the suit.

Also, $450,000 will be for the costs of administering the settlement, $637,000 will go to incentive awards for the player representatives in the suit, $400,000 for a contingency fund and $2,315,000 for a payment under the California Private Attorney General Act, which allows penalties for violating state labor code.

MLB told the court that it did not oppose approval of the settlement.

“We are only in the second year of a major overhaul of the 100-year-old player development system and have made great strides to improve the quality of life for minor league players,” MLB said in a statement. “We are proud that minor league players already receive significant benefits, including free housing, quality health care, multiple meals per day, college tuition assistance for those who wish to continue their education and over $450 million in annual signing bonuses for first-year players.”

“We are pleased we were able to come to a mutually agreeable resolution but are unable to comment on the details until the agreement is formally approved by the court.”

As part of the proposed settlement, MLB agreed to rescind any prohibitions against teams paying wages to minor league players outside of the season.

“‘MLB will also issue a memorandum to the clubs advising the clubs that they must compensate minor league players in compliance with wage-and-hour laws in effect in Arizona and Florida during spring training, extended spring training, instructional leagues, and the championship season in those states, including any minimum wage laws that apply,” the proposed settlement said.

The suit was filed in 2014 by first baseman/outfielder Aaron Senne, a 10th-round pick of the Marlins in 2009 who retired in 2013, and two other retired players who had been lower-round selections: Kansas City infielder Michael Liberto and San Francisco pitcher Oliver Odle. They claimed violations of the federal Fair Labor Standards Act and state minimum wage and overtime requirements for a work week they estimated at 50 to 60 hours.

Spero wrote in a pretrial ruling in March that minor leaguers are year-round employees who work during training time and found MLB violated Arizona’s state minimum wage law and was liable for triple damages. Spero also ruled MLB did not comply with California wage statement requirements, awarding $1,882,650 in penalties.

He said minor leaguers should be paid for travel time to road games in the California League and to practice in Arizona and Florida.

“For decades, Major League Baseball’s 30 team owners have openly conspired to underpay minor league baseball players,” Advocates for Minor Leaguers executive director Harry Marino said in a statement. “Players are required to provide between six and nine months of free labor each year. Today’s settlement announcement is an acknowledgment of, and an important first step toward remedying, that injustice.”

Advocates for Minor Leaguers has pressed Congress to investigate treatment of minor leaguers and to further limit baseball’s antitrust exemption. Congress passed a law in March 2018 stripping players of the protection of federal minimum wage law.

In 2017, the players suing were defined as those with minor league contracts who played in the California League for at least seven straight days starting on Feb. 7, 2010, or Feb. 7, 2011, depending on state or federal claims; those who participated in spring training, extended spring training instructional leagues in Arizona starting Feb. 7, 2011; and those who participated in spring training, extended spring training instructional leagues in Florida starting Feb. 7, 2009.

The settlement explained how the legal fees were determined.

“A fee award of 30% of the common fund is reasonable given the risk class counsel took in bringing this novel wage-and-hour case, the effort they put into litigating the case for eight years through a lengthy appeal and until the eve of trial, and the excellent result achieved,” the settlement said.

Texas Rangers ink free-agent ace Jacob deGrom to 5-year deal

Jacob deGrom
USA Today
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ARLINGTON, Texas — Jacob deGrom is headed to the free-spending Texas Rangers, who believe the health risk is worth the potential reward in trying to end a six-year run of losing.

The two-time Cy Young Award winner agreed to a $185 million, five-year contract Friday, leaving the New York Mets after nine seasons – the past two shortened substantially by injuries.

“We acknowledge the risk, but we also acknowledge that in order to get great players, there is a risk and a cost associated with that,” Rangers general manager Chris Young said. “And one we feel like is worth taking with a player of Jacob’s caliber.”

Texas announced the signing after the 34-year-old deGrom passed his physical. A person with direct knowledge of the deal disclosed the financial terms to The Associated Press. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the club did not announce those details.

The Rangers were also big spenders in free agency last offseason, signing shortstop Corey Seager ($325 million, 10 years) and second baseman Marcus Semien ($175 million, seven years).

The team said deGrom will be introduced in a news conference at Globe Life Field next week following the winter meetings in San Diego.

“It fits in so many ways in terms of what we need,” Young said. “He’s a tremendous person. I have a number of close friends and teammates who played with Jacob and love him. I think he’s going to be just a perfect fit for our clubhouse and our fans.”

Texas had modest expectations after adding Seager, Semien and starter Jon Gray ($56 million, four years) last offseason but still fell short of them.

The Rangers went 68-94, firing manager Chris Woodward during the season, and then hired Bruce Bochy, a three-time World Series champion with San Francisco. Texas’ six straight losing seasons are its worst skid since the franchise moved from Washington in 1972.

Rangers owner Ray Davis said the club wouldn’t hesitate to keep adding payroll. Including the $19.65 million qualifying offer accepted by Martin Perez, the team’s best pitcher last season, the Rangers have spent nearly $761 million in free agency over the past year.

“I hate losing, but I think there’s one person in our organization who hates losing worse than me, and I think it’s Ray Davis,” Young said. “He’s tired of losing. I’m tired of losing. Our organization is tired of losing.”

After making his first start in early August last season, deGrom went 5-4 with a 3.08 ERA in 11 outings. He helped the Mets reach the playoffs, then passed up a $30.5 million salary for 2023 and opted out of his contract to become a free agent for the first time.

That ended his deal with the Mets at $107 million over four years, and deGrom rejected their $19.65 million qualifying offer in November. New York will receive draft-pick compensation for losing him.

The fan favorite becomes the latest in a long line of ace pitchers to leave the Mets for one reason or another, including Nolan Ryan, Tom Seaver, Dwight Gooden and David Cone.

The Rangers visit Citi Field from Aug. 28-30.

When healthy, deGrom is perhaps baseball’s most dominant pitcher. His 2.52 career ERA ranks third in the expansion era (since 1961) behind Los Angeles Dodgers lefty Clayton Kershaw (2.48) and Hall of Famer Sandy Koufax (2.19) among those with at least 200 starts.

The right-hander is 4-1 with a 2.90 ERA in five career postseason starts, including a win over San Diego in the wild-card round this year that extended the Mets’ season. New York was eliminated the next night.

A four-time All-Star and the 2014 NL Rookie of the Year, deGrom was a ninth-round draft pick by the Mets in 2010 out of Stetson, where he played shortstop before moving to the mound. He was slowed by Tommy John surgery early in his career and didn’t reach the majors until age 26.

Once he arrived, though, he blossomed. He helped the Mets reach the 2015 World Series and earn a 2016 playoff berth before winning consecutive NL Cy Young Awards in 2018 and 2019.

But injuries to his elbow, forearm and shoulder blade have limited him to 26 starts over the past two seasons. He compiled a career-low 1.08 ERA over 92 innings in 2021, but did not pitch after July 7 that year because of arm trouble.

DeGrom is 82-57 with 1,607 strikeouts in 1,326 innings over nine big league seasons. He gets $30 million next year, $40 million in 2024 and 2025, $38 million in 2026 and $37 million in 2027. The deal includes a conditional option for 2028 with no guaranteed money.

The addition of deGrom gives the Rangers three proven starters along with Gray and Perez, who went 12-8 with a career-best 2.89 ERA in his return to the team that signed him as a teenager out of Venezuela. Young didn’t rule out the addition of another starter.

With several holes on their starting staff, the Mets have shown interest in free agents Justin Verlander and Carlos Rodon to pair with 38-year-old Max Scherzer atop the rotation.

Now, with deGrom gone, signing one of those two could become a much bigger priority.