How are MiLB players going to live during the offseason, mid-pandemic?

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​Minor League Baseball players have to work in the offseason. Maybe not every minor-league player — a few early draft picks might have received large enough signing bonuses to avoid that fate, and the players on 40-man rosters are making a living wage thanks to being part of the Players Association with the protections and benefits that entail. But the vast majority of the thousands upon thousands of minor leaguers are making sub-poverty level wages, and for just a few months per year. In order to pay rent, eat, and continue to be able to train for their career, these players need to find second jobs to sustain themselves.

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MLB plans to replace MiLB teams with clubs full of unpaid players

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Major League Baseball still hasn’t unveiled what their plan is for replacing one-quarter of Minor League Baseball’s teams, but there have been enough leaks and reporting on the subject at this point that we’re still pretty clear on what’s next. Minor League Baseball teams that are being pushed out of MLB affiliations will still get to have teams of a sort, but the 1,000 players whose jobs are now on the line? They are being replaced
with a workforce that is somehow paid even less: independent players and college baseball players.

Baseball America has reported for months about how college wood bat leagues were one of the potential replacements for the disaffiliated clubs, and now ESPN is reporting, with a week to go before MLB formally proposes a plan to Minor League Baseball, that this and “encouraging” disaffiliated clubs to go independent with MLB paying the franchise fees for entry is the direction that’ll be taken:

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MLB teams can now open instructional camps, but only if they pay players

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Shrinking the minors will cost more than players their jobs

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NCAA player organizing should inspire MiLB players to unionize

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Some MLB teams still haven’t promised to pay minor leaguers in August

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Taxi Squad concerns, and nearly half of MLB isn’t paying MiLB players in July

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MLB expected to cut 1,000 minor leaguers, while A’s won’t even pay the ones they kept

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Minor League player pay isn’t guaranteed past the fast-approaching May 31

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The dispute between Major League Baseball and the Players Association has loomed large over the sport essentially since the 2020 season was postponed by the COVID-19 pandemic, but it’s not the lone story out there. Minor League Baseball players aren’t sure if they are going to have a season, either, and the temporary pay solution put in place to help get them through their own postponed 2020 is set to come to an end… with no real sign that it will be extended, either.

Said temporary solution — $400 per week — came in the wake of MLB being criticized for essentially forcing their minor leaguers to pack up and go home, but stay in game shape to be recalled at a moment’s notice, and all without any financial support from the league. Minor League players, still under contract, couldn’t apply for unemployment, and with no idea of when they were coming back, couldn’t necessarily apply to other part-time or temporary jobs, either. That’s still the case, and yet, after May 31, their $400 per week will come to an end.

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MLB will reportedly get their wish for a shrunken MiLB

Minor League Baseball, for over a year now, has been fighting Major League Baseball about shutting down or disaffiliating over one-quarter of its teams. It appears that fight is at an end, and if you were rooting for MiLB, you’re going to be disappointed.

Baseball America reported on Tuesday that, when talks resume on Wednesday between the two sides currently negotiating the Professional Baseball Agreement that governs their relationship, that MiLB will give in to MLB’s demands that they shrink to 120 affiliated clubs. It always felt like it was bound to happen, even before the COVID-19 pandemic, but that sealed the fate of 40-plus clubs. Federal, state, and local governments were going to be the greatest ally of these potentially disaffiliated minor-league teams, and with all of their attention now focused on handling a pandemic, MLB has MiLB right where it wants them: in a corner, alone.

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