Image credit: Rob Manfred (Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB Photos via Getty Images)
Late last week, word began to circulate that Commissioner Rob Manfred planned to suspend the contracts of most baseball operations employees in wake of the coronavirus pandemic. On Sunday, The Athletic reported Manfred would take such action May 1.
In response, 20 teams have moved to guarantee their employees they will be paid through the end of May, as reported by ESPN’s Jeff Passan. Another team, the Padres, guaranteed employees they will be paid through October, albeit with tiered salary reductions, according to the San Diego Union-Tribune.
The remaining teams have yet to announce their intentions.
Manfred’s move to suspend Major League Club Uniform Employee Contracts—the contracts signed by major and minor league managers, coaches, scouts and other non-player personnel—gives teams the flexibility to lay off or furlough employees beginning May 1 as the league-wide shutdown enters its seventh week.
The Commissioner previously secured a pledge from all 30 clubs to continue paying their non-player employees through April 30. After that, it is up to individual teams how they want to proceed.
The Commissioner has the right to suspend player contracts during a declared national emergency in which games are not being played, per section 11 of the standard Uniform Player’s Contract.
In part because of this clause, the MLB Players Association negotiated for players to receive $170 million up front from owners in their deal with MLB rather than risk the Commissioner suspending contracts and the players receiving nothing.
A similar clause exists in the contracts that cover major and minor league managers, coaches, scouts and other non-player personnel. Section 13 of the Major League Club Uniform Employee Contract affirms the “authority of the Commissioner to suspend the operation of this (contract), including the payment of compensation to Employee, during any national emergency or any cessation or suspension of play in the Major Leagues.”
For now, most of baseball will be paid through the end of May. The $170 million major league players received was specifically targeted to cover them through April and May. MLB previously announced that most minor leaguers will continue to receive $400 per week through May 31. More than two-thirds of MLB teams have now guaranteed their baseball operations employees that they will be paid through at least the end of May.
What happens after May 31 will depend on the state of the pandemic, and how close baseball is to returning.