In a move that has been expected for months, Minor League Baseball officially canceled its 2020 season on Tuesday — after the coronavirus pandemic turned this year’s MLB season upside-down.
The move leaves thousands of minor leaguers without a team to play for in 2020. Most of the top prospects for each franchise have been placed on the 60-man taxi squad rosters, which could accelerate their path to the big leagues, but many more are now left to wonder what their futures will be like in baseball.
Likewise, many minor-league stadiums across America, and the people whose livelihoods would usually come from them, have seen the worst-case scenario confirmed — there will be no baseball for them in 2020.
How MLB’s season affects minor leaguers
In Major League Baseball’s 60-game, dash-to-the-playoffs format, teams will initially be allowed to carry 30 players on their roster instead of 26. Teams can also carry 30 other players for use on what’s being referred to as their taxi squad — players who can join the team because of injury or illness. In a way, it’s not that different than having your Triple-A team close.
The taxi squad rosters, however, also include some of each franchise’s top prospects. For example: The Tigers are expected to have Spencer Torkelson, their No. 1 overall pick in the draft a few weeks ago, on their taxi squad after he signed his contract Tuesday. The A’s are carrying an 18-year-old catcher they just drafted.
The minor leaguers who aren’t either upper-tier prospects or Triple-A level replacements will await their next marching orders — if there are any besides get ready for 2021.
There have been talks about other independent leagues that could house them. In Nashville, the Triple-A team is hoping to start a two-team league of free agents that will play each other four times per week. The hope would be that they get picked up by big-league teams.
According to Baseball America, the expectation is that minor leaguers whose contracts are suspended for the season will be allowed to participate in these types of indie leagues, but they may be risking their deals if they suffer injuries in those other leagues.
Many MLB teams will still pay minor leaguers
When the coronavirus shut down baseball, one of the groups left most vulnerable were minor-league players, who only get paid during the season — and even then don’t get paid very much.
Major League Baseball instituted a $400 per week stipend for minor leaguers. That initially lasted until April 9, with teams then extending their payment on minor leagues on their own. The A’s actually announced they would stop paying minor leagues on May 31, then changed course a few days later and said they would still pay their minor leaguers the $400 per week.
Most teams have now extended their stipends through June 30, and according to @MILBAdvovates Twitter account, only three teams have not yet publicly extended their stipends beyond that — the Indians, Diamondbacks and Angels. The Yankees were the most recent team to reportedly extend their stipends through July.
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