Tigers, MLB pledge financial support to minor-leaguers through early April
Thousands of minor-league baseball players will continue to be paid their allowance through the original scheduled start of their seasons, in early April, Major League Baseball announced Thursday.
A day earlier, Tigers CEO Christopher Ilitch announced the team would pay the minor-leaguers who were in spring camp in Lakeland, Fla., the rest of their spring-training allowances.
The Tigers said their decision was made "in keeping in line with our goal of supporting those hardest hit by cancellations and postponements."
The Tigers also have pledged $1 million to part-time staff at Comerica Park, where the Tigers were to open the season later this month, but now won't until mid-May at the earliest, because of the coronavirus outbreak. Ilitch Holdings, which also owns the Red Wings, previously committed $1 million to pay part-time workers at Little Caesars Arena, home of the Wings and Pistons, as well as Fox Theatre.
There are more than 5,000 minor-league players spread throughout 261 sanctioned franchises at a variety of levels, from rookie ball to Triple A.
The Tigers have minor-league affiliates in Toledo (Triple A), Erie, Pa. (Double A), Comstock Park and Lakeland (two teams; Single A and rookie ball), as well as Norwich, Conn. (short-season Single A).
MLB announced last week it would continue paying its major-league players their allowances.
On Thursday, it said its minor-league initiative covers all players not receiving funding elsewhere, such as a 40-man roster player receiving major-league allowance or a minor-leaguer who already has received pledged support from their parent franchise. The Los Angeles Dodgers were among the first teams to publicly say they'd continue paying minor-leaguers.
MLB said this plan extends through April 8, and then will be adjusted as necessary.
"MLB takes the community impact of this crisis seriously," the league said in a statement.
Amid the sports shutdown, there have been multiple grassroots initiatives to help minor-league players, including one started by The Athletic's Emily Waldon, a west Michigan native who already has secured pledges worth thousands of dollars. She also has been helping connect minor-league players with businesses looking to hire.
Michigan is home to three sanctioned minor-league outlets, all Single A: the West Michigan Whitecaps (Tigers), Lansing Lugnuts (Toronto Blue Jays) and Midland's Great Lakes Loons (Dodgers).
Minor-league pay has been a hot-button topic this offseason. Many top draft picks can live on hefty signing bonuses, but beyond the early rounds, those players can struggle to make ends meet. Minor-leaguers are only paid in-season, meaning they only have five months of secured wages, but they are scheduled to get a raise in 2021, the Associated Press reported last month, from $290 to $400 a week for rookie or short-season players, all the way up to $502 to $700 a week for Triple-A players.