The Chicago Cubs and San Francisco Giants are pushing ahead with pay raises for minor league players this season, days after Major League Baseball mandated salary bumps beginning in 2021.
Cubs general manager Jed Hoyer and Giants baseball executive Farhan Zaidi confirmed the wage hikes Tuesday.
MLB informed teams on Friday that it would be raising minimum salaries for minor leaguers in 2021, according to a memo obtained by The Associated Press. Those increases, ranging from 38% to 72% depending on the level, mean players will earn between $4,800 in rookie ball to $14,000 at Triple-A.
Hoyer said the Cubs' pay bumps will take effect this season and will mirror those made by the Blue Jays in 2019, when Toronto became the first club to boost pay by giving all minor leaguers 50% raises. Hoyer said the idea was pushed by the Ricketts family, which owns the franchise.
“They obviously had read about all the teams talking about changing it,” Hoyer said. "They read about the Blue Jays and they’re like, ‘We need to do this.’ We put a tremendous emphasis on player development. We put a tremendous emphasis on our minor league talent, and the Ricketts family were pretty adamant that we treat them as well as anybody.
“So that’s the move we’re going to make, and we’re proud to do it. I’m really happy and proud that they wanted to do it and they just sort of took it on as kind of an ownership project, which is great.”
The Cubs' raises were first reported by the Chicago Tribune, and the Giants' hikes were reported by the San Francisco Chronicle.
According to the Chronicle, the Giants' pay bumps will be slightly more aggressive than the MLB-mandated minimums, with Triple-A players earning $15,000 for the five-month season.
By comparison, the major league minimum is $563,500 this year, and the top players make over $30 million annually.
A group of minor leaguers filed a lawsuit against major league teams in February 2014 claiming their meager salaries violated minimum wage laws. While the case has not yet gone to trial, Congress passed legislation in 2018 stripping minor league players from protection under federal minimum wage laws.
San Francisco, which already had a reputation among minor leaguers as being relatively player-friendly after eliminating clubhouse dues and providing nutritious food, is also giving players a hand with housing. Rookie-ball, short-season and low-Class A players will be provided free housing. Class A Advanced players will be placed with host families, and Double-A and Triple-A players will be given $500 housing allowances each month.
Zaidi, entering his second season as president of baseball operations with the Giants, said the club would take feedback from players and could make further adjustments in 2021.
“There was really some momentum behind it before I came into the organization, but just from a personal standpoint, I’m excited that we were able to do it,” he said. “I think that it does a lot of good for the organization. I think it’s the right thing to do, and we’re kind of looking forward to having it in place."
“It’s a quality of life issue,” he added. “It’s a convenience issue. It’s a time issue, and just getting a better sense of all that, something we’ll continue to evaluate.”
MLB's mandated raises come as the league is negotiating with the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues, the governing body of the minors, to replace the Professional Baseball Agreement that expires after the 2020 seasons. MLB proposed cutting 42 of the 160 required affiliated teams during those negotiations, a plan criticized by small-town fans and politicians at the local and national level.
MLB also has sought assistance from minor league teams in paying salaries and for facility upgrades in those negotiations.
AP Sports Writer Greg Beacham in Scottsdale, Arizona, contributed to this report.