Major League Baseball owners are set to vote on a proposal to send to the Major League Baseball Players Association in less than one hour from the time that I began typing this article. Bob Nightengale of USA Today has a lot of details that are included in the proposal, including a “revenue sharing with the players that would give the players ‘at least’ 48% this season”. But perhaps the biggest, though not nearly the most important thing noted, is a bit of new information that says the official rosters would go from 26 players up to 30 players, with a 20-man taxi squad available that would consist “mostly of an organization’s top minor league players being available all season”.
This is important to two reasons. The first is the signal that the owners are basically telling us that there’s no plan to have a minor league season this year. They aren’t saying it explicitly, but they’re saying it with this proposal. It’s not surprising, as at least for a few weeks now we’ve seem to understand just how little sense it would make for 50 different reasons to have a minor league baseball season played.
But the other important thing here is that while we knew there was likely to be some sort of taxi squad or practice squad for the big league teams to be able to go to if and when someone is injured/takes paternity leave etc., we now know the number of players that roster will be.
What we don’t know is if those extra 20-players are made up of the remaining 40-man roster guys not on the 30-man roster or not. I’ve venture to guess that yes, all of the 40-man roster will be required to be on that “50-man” group in one way or the other – the players association of course is going to negotiate for them before anyone else. On Sunday in the May Mailbag I addressed which additional 10 minor league players – five pitchers and five position players – I’d add to a “taxi squad” if it were expanded enough to have 10 spots of non-40-man players.
Another big part of the taxi squad group is about service time and about pay. What will those guys be paid if they never get into the big leagues this season? If these guys are also only getting “pro rated pay” based on the time they spend on the roster, even guys on the 40-man currently are only going to get $20-41,000 this year if they are never called up (1st year 40-man players make less than 2nd and 3rd year 40-man players). But if you are a guy NOT on the 40-man roster and get placed here – if you just get normal “minor league pay” that’s pro-rated, you’re looking at asking a guy to risk the health for something like $1800 a month. Perhaps that’s spelled out in the proposal and the details just aren’t leaked out yet – but it’s something that needs to be discussed if it’s not.
Even if their service time only accounts for minor league service time, do they get the full year of service time? This could be a big factor for some guys, even if maybe it doesn’t feel like a big deal right this second.
It’s going to be a real interesting few days as the proposal gets handed to the players to look over. It seems that the belief in the media right now is that the players aren’t exactly thrilled about the idea of being asked to take less money than was already agreed upon in late March. The owners are seeking to pay even less now, while it’s the players and their families that are taking on all of the health risks associated with this situation.
And while you’re here, I’m just going to point you over to Redleg Nation where earlier this morning I wrote about a potential of giving the players options of opting out of the 2020 season even if the players association does choose to play this season. It’s a complicated situation as some players (not to mention some of those in their immediate family) have medical conditions that put them at a much higher risk of serious complications or death if they were to contract COVID-19.