With Major League Baseball making its arrival for 2019, salaries are once again on the rise. But while players in the top tier of baseball may be striking it rich, low wages are the harsh reality for the thousands of players in Minor League Baseball.
To understand the salaries of minor league players, one must understand the structure of MiLB.
The minor leagues make up six tiers of play, ranking from Triple-A to the Rookie leagues. Each MLB team has around 8-9 minor league teams affiliated with them.
Salaries can have a wide range depending on what level of play you are at.
First-year players in the Rookie leagues can make around $1,150 a month, while Triple-A players can make nearly $3,000 a month.
That doesn’t even count minor league players on the 40-man roster, who will make more than the average Triple-A player.
The biggest problem with the MiLB pay structure is that players are only paid for in-season play. The MiLB season is just over five months long, and players aren’t even compensated for spring training. Add it all together, and the average minor league player makes roughly $8,000-$8,500 a year, compared to an MLB player, who averages $3.4 million per year.
This is absurd when you compare it to other minor leagues. The American Hockey League, the top minor league of the NHL, pays players roughly $45,000. The NBA’s G League pays roughly $35,000 with housing provided. The MLB does not provide housing for its minor league players, and has actually fought efforts to raise players’ pay.
In 2018, Congress passed a $1.3 trillion spending bill. Buried nearly 2,000 pages deep was the Save America’s Pastime Act. The SAPA provides that baseball players paid by salary are exempted from the Fair Labor Standards Act, and therefore are exempt from minimum wage and overtime pay. This legally allows MiLB to pay players what they do, and was passed after much lobbying from the MLB.
While MLB teams cry out that an increase in minor leaguers’ pay would hurt them financially, this is far from the truth. 24 out of the 30 major league teams report a positive operating income, and every year salaries rise at the major league level. To put this into perspective, it would cost less than $5 million per team to increase every minor leaguer’s salary to $30,000.
With the MLB unlikely to take action on this issue itself, the pressure to raise pay in the MiLB will have to come from outside sources. Whether it comes from Congress, the players or the fans, the worst possible result would be the status quo. Hopefully with time these players can finally start getting paid like baseball is their profession, and not just a hobby.
Header photo courtesy of Flickr