Rob Manfred and the owners are apparently big Thanos fans because they seem all too intent on eliminating half of all life in the minor league universe. Not happy with eliminating over a quarter of affiliated teams last year, reducing the minors from 162 clubs to 120, Major League Baseball has reportedly asked for the ability to further reduce the number of minor league playing positions by up to 30 per organization.
I’m not great at math, but I think 30 times 30 comes out to 900. That’s a nine with two zeroes after it, which, if expressed monetarily, would be $900 more than minor league players are paid for spring training. It’s also nearly one-third of what players in the Dominican Summer League earn. The DSL minimum is just $3,000, with players in complex leagues earning $9,600, A-ball players raking in $12,000, Double-A paying $14,400, and Triple-A really throwing around cash with a $16,800 minimum.
Some players at those levels are obviously making more, but a vast majority of the maximum 180 players on any org’s Domestic Reserve List are not top prospects or minor league free agents. Even if you use the high end of the wage scale above, you’re looking at a savings of just $504,000 by eliminating those players. That’s less than the current MLB minimum, which itself needs to be much higher.
What’s really wild about this whole thing is that owners should be doing everything in their power to foster more minor league positions in order to maintain the best possible feeder system for their imbalanced MLB workforce (a topic we covered at length yesterday on our podcast, The Rant Live). Roughly 60% of the league is comprised of players in their pre-arbitration years earning less than nine figures, hence the median salary dropping from $1.65 million to $1.15 million since 2015. That’s a 30% drop, which kinda-sorta contradicts everything the league wants you to believe about the greedy players.
According to Jeff Passan of ESPN, the league included the ability to reduce the reserve list as part of its most recent proposal to the players association. The proposal says the league could move the size of the list “up or down,” but MLB reportedly has no plans to reduce it in 2022 or ’23. However, the proposal would give the commissioner the ability to trim the list to under 150 players over the course of the CBA.
Some of you may be thinking this is all very strange for reasons beyond just the transparent avarice and/or stupidity of the league, particularly since the MLBPA does not represent minor leaguers. The union does, however, handle several matters concerning the minors, with the draft being the most prominent. That process was shortened from 40 rounds to five during the truncated 2020 season and was then expanded to just 20 rounds this past summer.
Those moves alone saved the owners many millions in signing bonuses, and now they want to save even more by squeezing the very system that infuses the sport with its lifeblood. As much as I understand the idea of businessmen trying to cut corners, I still can’t wrap my head around why the league would be attempting to save what amounts to a pittance when it could cost them valuable talent down the road.
Major League Baseball isn’t just cutting off its nose to spite its face, it’s going full Vincent Van Gogh at this point. Hell, some of the owners would probably be willing to make themselves eunuchs if they believed doing so would protect their sweet, sweet asset appreciation. They’d better be careful where they’re swinging that scalpel, though, because they’re dangerously close to cutting ties with legions of fans that are fast reaching a breaking point.
I know I’m never going to convert those whose backs hurt from carrying water for the owners and I may not even reach most of the both-sidesers, but maybe one or two of you out there who’ve been waffling will see how gross this is.