If you’ve been around the site for a while, or followed me on twitter for a while, you’ve seen me go on some epic rants about the lack of minor league baseball pay. I even wrote about it at The Athletic earlier this month. Los Angeles Times writer Bill Shaikin also decided to write about it over the weekend. And within his article there are a few really interesting things. Some are good, and some are not-so-good. Let’s start with the not-so-good:

In negotiations, everything is essentially traded dollar for dollar,” Miller said. “There might be a possibility for us to pressure the MLB side to raise wages on the minor league side. However, we would probably be sacrificing, say, arbitration, or some sort of dollars that are being spent on us elsewhere. That is just the reality of the deal.

Miller, in that case, is Cleveland pitcher Andrew Miller. He’s on the executive board for the MLB Players Association. He’s not wrong in the sense that if they were to fight for better pay for minor league players that they would probably have to give up something on the other side. That is the reality of the situation. But so what? You could literally DOUBLE what guys are getting paid by the organization (non-free agent signees and non-40-man roster guys) for roughly $1.2M per year, per organization. In terms of negotiations they’re out there fighting for, that’s couch change. They just want that couch change for themselves.

As I wrote last winter, why can’t the penalty money that was paid to MLB on “overspending” on international signing bonuses be used to increase the pay for minor leaguers? Teams were willing to pay to sign those guys all of that money, but instead over $200,000,000 of it went to the MLB coffers as penalty instead of into the players pockets that the teams were absolutely willing to pay them to sign on the dotted line. Of course, we know why: Because they don’t have to.

With all of that said, there is something good from the article. Perhaps.

The agreement that governs the relationship between the major leagues and the minor leagues expires in 2020. As the two sides negotiate a new deal, major league owners are expected to get a better sense of what a revised minor league salary structure might look like, and how to pay for it.

“Many owners would like to address this issue in the near term,” said a baseball official not authorized to speak publicly on the issue.

It’s good that at least someone believes the owners would like to address the issue. Of course, the question is what does that mean? Does it mean giving them an extra $100 a month? Or does it mean actually paying them a livable wage? I don’t think there are many people out there saying to pay them all $50,000 a year. But there’s a big difference between where they are at now, and that.

Prospect Rankings Updates and Projections

The guys over at Fangraphs have made a few changes on their prospect rankings. Sort of. The changes are not yet reflected in their rankings or on their big board. But the FV (future value) has been changed on a handful of prospects. Reds comp B 2nd round pick Josiah Gray is among that group. When the rankings were last updated he was a 40 FV player, and ranked 20th in the organization. He’s listed among the “moving among the 40/45 FV prospects”. Here’s what was said about Gray:

A converted infielder with a mid-90s fastball and strike-throwing ability, Gray has late-bloomer traits (small, cold-weather college, a position change) and feel for spin. He may just be scratching the surface.

Fangraphs wasn’t the only place to have some prospect ranking stuff come out. MLB Pipeline’s Jim Callis had a fun article last week about who he believes will be the Top 10 prospects next year at this time. The amount of graduations is never easy, and you can certainly miss some guys completely taking it to a different level. Still, it’s a fun exercise.

Callis pegged Taylor Trammell to be the 7th overall prospect at this point next year. That’s not terribly surprising. he rose up boards all year long. The recently turned 21-year-old hit .277/.375/.406 in the extremely pitcher friendly Florida State League during 2018. He also showed off his bat in The Futures Game, taking home the MVP honors with a long homer and a triple.

28 Responses

  1. Michael Smith

    So many easy answer and no one is really trying. The raises are a drop in the bucket to get guys in a position to be able to concentrate on developing skills.

  2. Stock

    I have Gray at number 12 on my list for the Reds for many of the reasons stated above. I think Gray will be a no doubt top 10 Reds prospect a year from now.

  3. Simon Cowell

    Im against minor league pay increases until they add reverse arbitration for malor leaguers. Somebody li,e our own Homer Bailey is not earning his paycheck by any standards. An arbiration board should e able to weigh in and down scale his salary accordingly. Its right and its fair. Take the earnings saved and put towards minor league pay increases. An obvious and simple solution. If it doesnt happen blame the players for not sharing in the revenue.

    • victor vollhardt

      Bailey’s contract (because of injuries and a possible attitude problem on Bailey’s side) has been a bust and will continue to be through 2019 and the buyout. BUT it is a binding agreement–just because it didn’t work out (for the Reds) doesn’t mean you can just quit honoring its terms. The same goes for pay cuts–that way is not in the basic agreement between players and clubs. Want to change it?–you have get the players to agree to it in the next negotiations. And good luck on that one. As for taking from the rich and giving to the less paid–well that is not how it is done in a society like ours and never will be. If you think that is the way to handle it–you need to read up on America’s history–both political and business.

      • Simon Cowell

        Victor, not saying I disagree with you but that is literally what mlb players do to owners. The players not the owners control the pay scale. Personally I think the owners should be allowed to pay as little or as much as they wanted.

        And yes, reverse arbitration would have to be agreed upon by the players and certainly could only be applied towards future contracts. That is why I say blame the mlb players union for the reason of poverty strickin minor leaguers. The mlbpu literally has the minor leages cut out of the pie

      • Doug Gray

        The MLB Owners literally paid lobbiest millions of dollars of the last few years to pass a law so they didn’t have to pay minor leaguers more than minimum wage for 40 hours a week and absolutely no more than 40 hours no matter if they worked it. The owners absolutely have tons of blame here, too.

    • RobL

      So Simon, when these pre-arbitration players that are providing vastly more value than they are being paid. Will the owners reimburse them for out performing their contract?

    • Jonathan Linn

      Two separate arguments = two seperate discussion.i think you weaken both arguments if you put them in the same discussion

  4. RobL

    Doug, I am with you 100% that minor leaguers are embarrassingly under paid. But throwing shade at the players is not wise. You say it would cost 1.2 million per team to pay a living wage. Well, Miller says that the owners want to take it from arbitration money or the like. The Reds have 14 players on their 40 man in pre-arbitration, which means they would need to reduce their pay by about 100,00 per player. That is almost a 20% pay cut. Not to mention that they are already the biggest bargain going. That’s a bridge too far. 1.2 million is a small fraction of a team’s budget. But it is a big deal for the players to be responsible for.

    Your idea about the penalty money is a great idea.

    • Alan

      So, why not just “take” from the arbitration- and post-arbitration-eligible players, then?

    • Doug Gray

      If one of the players wants to talk to me about it, I’m fully on board.

      And no, $1.2M is not a big deal for the players to be responsible for. Nor is it a big deal for the owners to be responsible for. Heck, split the money down the middle and quit being cheap. I don’t really care how it gets done. If the guys making $580,000 a year have to now make $560,000 a year, and the guys making $20M a year now have to take $19.7M a year so minor league baseball players don’t have to room 4 guys in a 2-bedroom apartment and eat McDonalds on the road, so be it. I. Do. Not. Care. And I’ll tell it to anyone that will have the conversation with me. Whether that’s Tony Clark, whether it’s Joey Votto, whether it’s Bob Castellini, or whether it’s some random person on twitter. When you’ve got professional athletes working as bouncers at bars in October through February because the pay is better than they’ll get with some other seasonal job, there’s a freakin’ problem. I don’t care who has to make $10,000 less on their salary at the Major League level to fix that.

      • Simon Cowell

        It starts with the players union. Doug, you and I both know that the players union controls the league.

      • RobL

        You have to have a system in place. Here, you are advocating that all major leaguers give 10,000 of their salary over to minor leaguers. Basically, you want the major league players to literally pay others as part of their employment, because the owners, whose teams are worth over a billion dollars, don’t want to do it. I’m sorry, but that is crazy. Have the owners sent a lobbyist to talk to you?

      • Alan

        “You have to have a system in place.” Yes, and that is the entire point of the post above, to put a system in place.

        “Here, you are advocating that all major leaguers give 10,000 of their salary over to minor leaguers.” No, nobody is advocating that. Doug is using that as an example of the practical effects of placing the aforementioned system in place. In other words, he is, correctly, saying that agreeing to and implementing a system to increase minor league pay would make no impact whatsoever on the lifestyles of major league players.

        “I’m sorry, but that is crazy. ” That’s probably why he did not make such a suggestion.

  5. Alan

    The beauty of professional sports. Andrew Miller, who is set for the next sixteen lifetimes, doesn’t want to give back a single scrap so that a twenty-year-old who got know bonus can chase his dream, eat three proper meals per day, and devote all of his time to becoming the best player possible. And then, failing that, he could then make a living as one of those late 20s, early 30s “AAAA” players that help mentor the young hotshots coming through the system.

    Alas, no. It’s right there in the statement. No major leaguer, who’s well past the point of “making a living”, will give up a dollar he’ll never even miss simply so someone else can get to a basic “earning a living” level while also having a vastly improved chance of becoming a contributing player.

    Andrew Miller is on the Players’ Association board because he throws hard AND is already rich. He’s not there because he cares about anyone else.

  6. RobL

    Here’s a legit topic to cover in the offseason: once a week, post an article about how a player spends his off season. What does he do to make ends meet. How does this affect his training. How much are they paid for playing in a winter league.

    Put names and faces to the stories about minor league struggles. I promise, I will donate to you if you do.

  7. Michael Smith

    I do wonder if the NBA bargaining agreement includes the G league for the money that comes out of the players portion of revenue sharing. I do not think it does.

    I guess what I am getting at is why does MLB expect the players MLB players to shoulder the cost of player development when it comes to salary.

    • Alan

      “I guess what I am getting at is why does MLB expect the players MLB players to shoulder the cost of player development when it comes to salary.” That is beautifully stated, and a perfect summation of the entire issue.

  8. MK

    Best way to handle it would be to allow any one who has signed a player contract with an MLB team to become a member of Players Association. Maybe their voting privileges would be 1/2 vote until their rookie service status has passed. Since the big leaguers would need the votes to pass working agreements a few of the minor leaguers concerns would get a fair hearing. Doubt this would ever happen.

  9. Billy

    Seems to me that the best approach would be to appeal to the owners as to why investing more in their minor leaguers benefits them.

    Minor league players are competition to major league players. Anything that “levels the field” makes it more likely that a minor league player will be able to take a major league player’s job. Appealing to major leaguers for the concerns of minor leaguers seems unlikely to work.

    On the other hand, appealing to owners that they could replace expensive major league talent with inexpensive minor league talent has appeal. “Replace” is the key word there though. The talent has to be at least as good. That means that the owners should be willing to invest in initiatives that improve the quality of play of the minor leaguers.

    I think we already see a lot of this. In the steroid era, players played longer. Old, marginally productive players are expensive. Teams have gotten smarter. Now, the marginally productive players are more often the cheap, pre-free agency players. Yes, you still have Homer Bailey, but you also get plenty of veterans who are pushed out of the league earlier these days because they weren’t quite good enough to be worse the extra expense vs. the pre-arb AAA replacement player.

    So… Players shouldn’t want to pay for increased salary for minor leaguers. Owners should want to pay for better minor league players. I don’t hear often about guys quitting the minors because they can’t afford to keep playing. I’m sure it’s a consideration for some, but they’re likely past the prospect stage by that point. Instead, I’d argue that owners should be persuaded to provide better nutrition, better strength and conditioning facilities, and better living conditions (encouraging proper rest, for instance) – and they should be providing those things in season and out of season. Until minor leaguers start giving up the dream because they can’t afford to pursue it, I just don’t see anyone jumping in to increase those salaries.

    • Big Ed

      I don’t disagree with a lot of this. I don’t think there are any present caps on how much the teams can spend on nutrition or strength coaches and the like. In fact, if I remember Doug’s article correctly, or a similar one, some teams are now paying for apartments.

      The issue is not with how much Taylor Trammell or Tony Santillan or even Andy Sugilio makes, because they are legitimate prospects who got decent bonuses (don’t know what Sugilio got) and have a real shot at The Show (and dough).

      The part that baseball ought to be embarrassed about, rather than paying lobbyists to embed into law, is paying sub-minimum wages to guys (many Dominican, etc.) who fill up the rosters but have no real chance for a major league career. These guys’ real function is to provide legitimate competition for the few guys on each team who do have a shot at playing in Cincinnati, or San Francisco, etc. I don’t understand why everybody affiliated with the MLB brand, starting with ownership but including the players, would not want to give these guys a decent paycheck.

      And yes, the low wages do run off some of these organizational guys, and usually the brighter ones. It’s not so much the low pay, as it is the opportunity cost. At some point, a guy can’t continue to play for peanuts, while losing out on the early part of what will be his eventual career, be it in carpentry, sales, or a profession like law or medicine.

      • MK

        Part of this has to be the huge bonuses paid to the top of the draft and international market. Just knock a million off the top and everybody could get a raise. There has been a lot of money wasted on these signings. One of the Venezuelan players who lived with me received a $690,000 bonus and never got above Dayton and remember Y-Rod

  10. Michael Smith

    I really wish MLB would go to a cap system similar to the NBA. Minimum team salary, soft cap with tax, hard cap with massive tax. Then the debates between union and owners gets real simple. What % is split and how.

  11. Shawn

    Small market teams will not be able to compete regularly until there is a salary cap. Should be a floor and ceiling. 120M floor and 180M ceiling seems fair. Pay the minor league players a living wage!

    • RedsinWashst

      Been saying it for years but the New York’s, LA’s and Chicago’s control the league but the small guys have a chance but they have to do everything right. I don’t think the Reds are.