Minor-league baseball players will continue to be paid through at least the end of May after Major League Baseball announced Tuesday morning that it has extended its league-wide initiative of financial support for minor-leaguers while the season is delayed because of the coronavirus pandemic.
MLB had previously said it would pay players through April 8, which was the originally scheduled start date of the minor-league season. The extension will pay the players and provide medical benefits through May 31 or until the beginning of the minor-league seasons, whichever occurs first.
A season beginning in May seems unlikely, as President Donald Trump announced on Monday that social-distancing guidelines would be extended through April. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommended the cancellation of events of 50 people or more until May 10. If baseball can return in the middle of May, which is a best-case scenario, the players would likely require three weeks of training before beginning the season. That would push opening day into June.
Many minor-league players work part-time jobs in the offseason, but finding work during a pandemic has proved challenging. The Phillies sent the players home from spring training on March 15, paying for plane tickets and distributing gas money as the players left Clearwater, Fla., for an uncertain future. Tuesday’s decision, which will pay minor-leaguers $400 a week, will provide relief.
Last week, MLB agreed to pay major-league players a combined $170 million in April and May. If games are played this season, that $170 million would be an advance of prorated contracts the players receive in 2020. If no games are played, the players have agreed to not seek additional wages besides that $170 million. Player salaries were expected to total roughly $4 billion this season.
The draft, scheduled for June, could be pushed to July and could be shortened from 40 rounds to just five. Even if no games are played this season, players will be granted service time based on what they earned in 2019. And for the Phillies, that means J.T. Realmuto will be eligible to be a free agent this winter.