At the end of March, Major League Baseball mandated clubs pay their minor leaguers $400 per week through the end of May as the sport remains on hiatus amid the novel coronavirus pandemic. After that, MLB left it up to each team to decide how to proceed, and teams’ plans have trickled out over the past week. The Oakland Athletics halted all compensation for minor leaguers, but the Kansas City Royals, Minnesota Twins, Houston Astros and Cincinnati Reds committed to paying $400 weekly stipends through August, roughly when the minor league season would have ended, and did not release any players.
The Nationals are somewhere in between those two approaches. They initially became the only known team to lower the weekly stipends, not maintain or eliminate them. They also released 40 players at the end of last week, according to a person with knowledge of the situation, telling those who were cut that there will not be a minor league season.
Their plans regarding compensation changed once the major league players stepped in. On Sunday night, closer Sean Doolittle tweeted a statement on behalf of Nationals players, saying they would pay to cover the $100 reduction in weekly stipends. The team met on a video conference call shortly after the reductions were first reported by the Athletic, and Doolittle later tweeted that the decision to help was unanimous.
Ownership’s reversal was first reported by 106.7 the Fan.
“After hearing that Nationals minor league players are facing additional pay cuts, the current members of the Washington Nationals Major League Baseball club will be coming together and committing funds to make whole the lost wages from their weekly stipends,” Doolittle wrote. “All of us were minor leaguers at one point in our careers and we know how important the weekly stipends are for them and their families during these uncertain times.”
By early Monday afternoon, ownership was finalizing the decision to pay the full $400 stipends. At the same time, the major leaguers were discussing how to collect and send money to the minor leaguers before word reached them that the owners would cover it. The immediate response, among both major and minor league players, was that this should have been the plan all along and that there is still no clarity beyond June.
The $400 stipend is not much more than minor leaguers receive during spring training, when they are also offered two free meals per day at the team facility. Once Doolittle announced the major leaguers would help keep the usual stipend intact, a Nationals minor leaguer did a quick calculation: The $100 would fund a trip to the grocery store for his family.
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