Rob Manfred rejects that minor leaguers not paid living wage

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LOS ANGELES — Baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred defended the sport’s treatment of minor leaguers, prompting immediate criticism from the players’ advocacy group.

“I kind of reject the premise of the question that minor league players are not paid a living wage,” Manfred told the Baseball Writers’ Association of America before Tuesday’s All-Star Game.

“I think that we’ve made real strides in the last few years in terms of what minor league players are paid, even putting to one side the signing bonuses that many of them have already received. They receive housing, which obviously is another form of compensation.”

MLB raised minimum salaries in 2021, increasing Class A pay from $290 to $500 per week, Double-A from $350 to $600, and Triple-A from $502 to $700 over the roughly five-month season. Players are only paid in-season.

Amateur players residing in the United States and Canada who are selected in this week’s amateur draft have slot values for their signing bonuses, which clubs use as guidelines, ranging from $8.8 million for the first pick to just under $150,000 for the last selections of the 10th and final round.

Last November, MLB announced it was requiring teams to provide furnished accommodations, with a single bed per player and no more than two players per bedroom. Teams are responsible for basic utility bills.

“Most minor league baseball players work second jobs because their annual salaries are insufficient to make ends meet,” Harry Marino, executive director of Advocates for Minor Leaguers, said in a statement responding to Manfred. “His suggestion that minor league pay is acceptable is both callous and false.”

Papers filed Friday in federal court revealed MLB agreed to pay $185 million to settle a lawsuit by minor leaguers. MLB agreed in the deal to rescind any prohibitions against teams paying wages to minor league players outside of the season.

An early estimate is that perhaps 23,000 players could share the money with an average payment of $5,000 to $5,500, with $55.5 million going to the players’ lawyers.

Leaders of the Senate Judiciary Committee have asked Manfred to explain by next Tuesday the impact of potential legislation stripping the sport’s antitrust exemption from covering the sport’s relationship with minor league players.

While players with major league contracts are unionized, players with minor league contracts are not. The Major League Baseball Players Association gave Advocates for Minor Leaguers $50,000 last November, according to a federal disclosure statement.

“It is exciting to see players recognizing and appreciating the power of their collective voice in effecting positive change in things that they live day to day,” union head Tony Clark, a former first baseman, told the BBWAA in a question-and-answer session prior to Manfred’s. “Harry Marino and the Advocates for Minor Leaguers have done a tremendous job in engaging and educating the the minor leaguers and helping them to find their voice. … We are watching. We are providing support when and where possible.”

 

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.