MLB, Minor League Players Reach Deal On First MiLB CBA

The Minor League Baseball Players Association and Major League Baseball have agreed on the first collective bargaining agreement in the history of the minor leagues.

The deal still needs final approval, but that is expected to be a formality. If approved, it will mean that for the first time in the nearly 125-year history of the “organized” minor leagues, minor league players will have played a part in determining their employment conditions.

Under the terms of the agreement, minor league player salaries will be increased dramatically. Players in the complex leagues will go from making a minimum of $4,800 per year to $19,800 a year. The minimum salary for players in Low-A will go from $11,000 to $26,200. High-A salaries will jump from $11,000 to $27,300. Double-A salaries will go from $13,800 to $30,250. Triple-A salaries will increase from $17,500 to $35,800.

Housing standards, especially for players with families, have also been improved in the CBA. And going forward, new signees who sign at 19 or older will be eligible for minor league free agency after six seasons. Previously, all minor league players regardless of age had to play seven seasons before they reached minor league free agency.

Details have been confirmed by Baseball America. News of the CBA was first reported by Evan Drellich of The Athletic and Jeff Passan of ESPN.

After decades of stagnation, the pace of improvement in minor league working conditions in the past few years has been dramatic. A minor league player who signed in 2000 and retired in 2018 would have noticed very little difference in overall working conditions in his career. The per diem for road trips increased slightly, but minimum salaries remained largely unchanged. Minor league players paid for their own food, largely through mandatory clubhouse dues. Housing was the responsibility of the players, even though MLB teams could move a player from city to city with little advance notice.

Comparatively, a minor league player who signed in 2019 has seen more change in the past four years than what occurred in the previous 50 years.

When that player signed in 2019, teams didn’t have to pay players during spring training. The minimum salary for a first-year player in the complex leagues was $3,480.

The following year, the entire minor league season was canceled because of the coronavirus pandemic. Before minor league players returned to work in 2021, MLB unilaterally pushed through a reduction of the minor leagues from 160 to 120 teams. With that decision, thousands of minor league players were out of a job.

MLB did announce salary increases for the remaining players, banned clubhouse dues and made teams responsible for providing meals for players at the ballpark. A new schedule format also guaranteed one day off per week. Under previous minor league schedules, players sometimes only had one off day per month.

While there were improvements, the memories of 2020 and the reduction of the minor leagues spurred a newfound activism among players. The efforts of Advocates for the Minor Leagues and other groups to raise awareness of poor living conditions helped bring further pressure onto MLB.

In 2022, MLB announced for the first time that parent clubs would be responsible for housing minor league players. Later that year, MLB agreed to settle a class-action lawsuit brought by minor league players for back pay for spring training, extended spring training and other wage violations. And late last year, minor league players voted to organize as a union for the first time. MLB quickly recognized the union, and the two sides began negotiating this CBA.

“Think of where things were just a few years ago,” labor attorney and former minor league player Garrett Broshuis said. “It’s a monumental leap that I don’t think anyone would have imagined.

“The genie is out of the bottle. We’re in a new world now where MiLBers have representation and they are acting collectively.”

As part of the new agreement, MLB will have the right to cut the number of minor league players per organization to 165 from the current 180. This only applies to players in the United States. Players at Dominican Republic complexes are counted separately.

That will mean a reduction of 450 minor league jobs if MLB goes forward with the reduction. It will almost ensure that each club can only have one complex league team going forward. Some opted to have two in the past.

But unlike the cutting of roughly 1,200 players in 2020, this was done by two sides reaching an agreement. The players decided that getting roughly $2.7 million in salary increases per organization was a reasonable tradeoff.

“It’s not lavish, but it shouldn’t be,” Broshuis said. It’s still the minor leagues, but they can afford to go to Chipotle now instead of skipping lunch.

“I remember having coaches who played in the 1970s. The salaries hadn’t changed that much since then. It never made sense to me. You were developing the future major league players and treating them like cattle. 

“Are players getting rich? No. But at the same time they are being treated with dignity now. They are being shown that their work does have value. That’s come through advocacy and the efforts of a lot of players.”

The new CBA is set to cover five years, which will take it through 2027. The current MLB Professional Development Licenses with minor league franchises extend through 2030, meaning minor league players will be negotiating a new CBA before the minor league team owners and MLB work out another PDL.

On the same day, a federal court turned down an objection to the settlement of the class action lawsuit. The objectors have 30 days to appeal, but if they do not, roughly 24,000 current and ex-minor league players will begin receiving checks for unpaid wages shortly. Players will receive an amount dependent on how many years they played and their eligibility for various classes of the lawsuit. The average amount a player will receive will be between $5,000 and $5,500, but some long-time players will receive more while others with brief minor league careers will receive less.

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