While nothing has officially been announced yet with regards to a 2020 Minor League Baseball season being cancelled, the writing has been on the wall for it for some time. When Major League Baseball began working on plans to get the big leagues going again we started seeing additions to the big league roster of things like taxi or practice squads that would expand the “roster” to 40-50 players in case of injury. It was the first sign that the plan for 2020 wasn’t likely to include playing baseball in the minors in any fashion this season.
Last week we started to get more concrete evidence that it wasn’t going to happen. Jon Heyman of MLB Network reported that teams were planning as if there’s not going to be a minor league season. Again, that all makes sense – minor league operations aren’t owned by the big league teams and survive on ticket sale revenue. They aren’t allowed to sell tickets right now, and holding games in empty stadiums would simply be a full-on money loser even in situations where staffing were minimal because nearly every dollar paid to an employee would be lost and that doesn’t factor in the cost of the utilities needed to put on a game.
Late on Monday night Fabian Ardaya of The Athletic reported that the Los Angeles Angels are going to begin to furlough employees starting on June 1st. The Reds are doing the same thing, as was reported last week. The difference is, Ardaya’s reporting which employees are going to be furloughed and he notes that almost all of the minor league and scouting staff will be among the group:
The club’s minor-league operation will take among the most severe hits, sources told The Athletic, with the majority of the club’s player-development staff, minor-league coordinators and minor-league coaches furloughed starting June 1. Among those also directly affected will include the pro and international scouting staff as well as junior-level baseball operations employees and members of the analytics department. Furloughed staff will continue to receive benefits through the end of the year, and the Angels will donate $1 million to the Angels Employee Assistance Fund to provide grants to those affected.
Eno Sarris of The Athletic tweeted out his thoughts, and unfortunately it feels like he’s got the right idea about a crappy situation.
With the increasing likelihood that there’s no minor league season, we’re going to see a lot of teams doing this. https://t.co/GfzOLe8c1C
— Eno Sarris (@enosarris) May 19, 2020
As far as we’ve seen reported thus far, no other team has made this kind of announcement with the details of the employees who will be furloughed. But plenty of teams have announced that they will be furloughing employees and without a minor league season, it seems that the people working on that side of operations would be the ones near the top of the list of “we can’t pay them if they aren’t working”. It’s gross and it stinks, but that’s got to be the line of thinking.
Along with that same line of thinking, what’s going to happen to the minor league players? Right now they are being paid $400 per week. That only goes through May 31st, though, and there’s been nothing reported about it being extended beyond that. Unlike the big leaguers, they aren’t in a union and can’t negotiate for anything (except those on the 40-man, but technically right now they are considered big leaguers even if they’ve never actually garnered service time).
Major League Baseball is doing all that they can to save cash this season. Cash flow seems to be something they’re all (at least publicly) a bit worried about. While it’s tough to put numbers on how much money would be saved by an organization that is furloughing all of their minor league staff because that’s going to vary a lot based on how many employees they have and how much they make, we can get a much better idea of how much a team will save by furloughing minor league players instead of continuing to pay them $400 per week through what would be the end of the regular season in the minors. Some teams have more players than others because they have more teams and thus more roster spots. But if an organization has between 225-275 players that they are paying $400 a week right now, furloughing them instead for the next three months would save between $1,170,000 and $1,430,000.
As for the employees in player development, as noted above, it’s really tough to put numbers on that. It’s 1 AM as I’m typing this, so I didn’t go download the Angels media guide – but I do have the Reds readily available at my fingertips. Using the information from Fabian Ardaya’s report, we’re looking at “a majority” of the scouting department, and nearly all of the minor league staff.
How many people are in said departments? There are 87 people listed within the scouting department, including those who oversee various departments as scouting directors. Within the player development department that number is even larger. There are 101 people who fit the role of manager, coach (hitting/pitching/bench), athletic trainer, and strength & conditioning coach. There are also several employees for the farm teams that have other roles within video and analytics who set up video cameras around the park, break down the video post game for the internal system, and run the Trackman operation during the game. You can probably add at least 10 more people to that 101 number if you include these employees.
In total, the Reds are at around 200 minor league “staff” and “scouting” jobs. Again, I didn’t compare that number to the Angels, but let’s assume it’s similar. A majority is simply more than half, but even if it’s “just” half, that’s 100 people. It’s likely going to be a lot more than just half, though. I’m not sure what the range of salaries is there, but it’s tough to believe anyone except the Trackman operators who are only working 3-3.5 hours per home game are making less than the players are right now. So a team furloughing this many employees probably saves them a few million the rest of the season, too.
It’s ugly out there in the world right now.