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MLB announces short-term financial plan for minor league players as outbreak continues

Saving is hard. The uncertainty of this pause during the coronavirus outbreak is scary. So on Thursday, about a week into the sport’s shutdown, Major League Baseball announced a short-term plan to alleviate financial stress for those players.

“Each player who is under a Minor League Uniform Player Contract will receive a lump sum equal to the allowances that would have been paid through April 8,” read the league’s statement, which invited a new round of questions.

The biggest is what will happen beyond April 8, which is one day before the minor league season was supposed to start. MLB on Thursday suggested that it would try to have a plan by then, saying that it was still in communication with the 30 teams to iron it out. Because minor league players don’t have a union, and the MLB Players Association is focused on players in the majors, they have little to no negotiation power here, and are at the whims of the league and their parent clubs.

In the last week, a handful of teams announced plans to keep paying minor leaguers their usual stipends for food and housing. Each February and March, these players rely on housing allowance, two meals a day at the spring training facility and weekly meal money to get by. Then their salaries kick in in mid-April — the minimum for a Class A player in 2019 was $5,800 — and the rationing continues.

But that’s what makes this spring so jarring: The usual routine is hard on its own. This one is untenable, according to a handful of minor league players who spoke to The Washington Post this week, because many don’t have a safety net. Some players, who spoke under the condition of anonymity in fear that their teams may punish them for speaking publicly without permission, predicted that a handful could have to retire without a certain level of financial support.

The league’s mandate does not apply to players currently receiving housing, food or other services from their clubs, or 40-man roster players who have kept receiving major league allowances. Yet the Washington Nationals, for example, will now pay their minor leaguers the lump sum of their expected stipends, since they had not previously agreed to do so.

The Nationals had two levels of weekly food stipends for minor league players during spring training. The first, for players with a spouse, at least one child or experience above Class AA, was $315 every Friday. The second, for the rest, was $140. Players who were being supported by their teams will not receive any additional funds for the next few weeks. Those who weren’t will feel the difference, then brace for what could happen next.

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