NEW YORK – Grant Dayton will notice one glaring absence this season after he reports to the Atlanta Braves: his twice-a-month salary.
He is among 11 major leaguers whose prorated pay for the abbreviated 60-game season amounts to less than the $286,500 advance already received by the 32-year-old left-hander.
“It’s going to be weird not getting a paycheck,” he said Friday, “but we already got paid.”
Dayton gave up the 6,776th and final home run of of last season's record total, to the New York Mets' Dominic Smith. To resume preparation for the new season he will drive Monday from his home in Winter Haven, Florida, to Atlanta with wife Cori, 2 1/2-year-old son Decker and nearly 6-month-old Nolan for Braves' workouts at Truist Park.
After opening day was postponed because of the coronavirus pandemic, Major League Baseball and the players’ association agreed March 26 to a deal that called for teams to advance $170 million in salaries over the first 60 days of the season.
Others who won’t get paychecks because of lower prorated salaries are Los Angeles Dodgers pitcher Jimmy Nelson and New York Yankees reliever Jonathan Holder ($277,778 each), Pittsburgh infielder Erik Gonzalez and Minnesota pitcher Matt Wisler ($268,519 apiece), Philadelphia catcher Andrew Knapp ($262,943), Chicago Cubs pitcher Jharel Cotton ($237,037), pitchers Collin McHugh of Boston, Ross Stripling of the Dodgers and Jesse Hahn of Kansas City ($222,222 each) and Milwaukee pitcher Freddy Peralta ($575,200).
“My first reaction was, wow, if we don’t have any games this year, I’m going to get paid the same amount that Freddie Freeman’s getting paid, so that’s pretty cool,” Dayton said in a reference to his teammate, a four-time All-Star first baseman with a $22 million salary that was cut to about $8.15 million. “I knew that there was going to be a point that if we resume games, I wouldn't get paid. And I was OK with that because we still received significant amounts of money and we’re fine.”
Each of the roughly 480 players with so-called “straight” contracts that call for a single salary received $286,500. The 769 players with “split” contracts that have a lower salary in the minor leagues — generally a younger group not yet eligible for arbitration — got either $16,500, $30,000 or $60,000, depending on their minor league pay level.
Dayton, who has spent parts of three seasons in the majors, has a $655,000, one-year contract. His prorated salary for the short season will be $242,593, assuming the contagion does not cause more games to be canceled.
The group won’t have to return any cash because the March deal states “in the event there is a 2020 championship season, any amounts advanced to individual players that cannot be recouped by clubs via payroll deduction during the 2020 season for any reason shall be reimbursed to clubs from the International Tax Fund at the conclusion of the 2020 season.”
That tax fund is money collected from teams that exceeded their specified bonus pools to sign high-priced Latin American amateurs.
“We’re blessed because we’re getting more money than the prorated amount,” Dayton said.
Most of the group has relatively low salaries for arbitration-eligible players because of injuries that sidelined them and reduced their statistics.
Nelson returned last June from shoulder surgery and was limited to three starts and seven relief appearances.
McHugh missed September and the postseason with a sore right elbow and signed a deal with a $600,000 salary and $3.65 million in performance and roster bonuses.
Cotton, Dayton, Hahn and Stripling all were interrupted by elbow surgery early in their careers, and Gonzalez missed more than half of last season after breaking his collarbone.
Peralta has a low salary in 2020 as part of a $15.5 million, five-year contract he agreed to in March.
Dayton was 0-1 with a 3.00 ERA in 14 relief appearances last year and is 1-3 with a 3.34 ERA in 68 big league games that included time with the Dodgers in 2016-17. He wonders how he will fare in arbitration next winter.
“It's going to be a weird year and a short season, but I guess they’re going to have to treat it on paper like a real season, a championship season," he said. "And as far as contracts go in the future, they’re going to have to take the stats this year, which is kind of scary for a relief pitcher, to be honest because you have one bad game, it takes a whole year to get that back. The slow starters can't be slow starters anymore."
Stripling, a financial adviser for B. Riley Wealth Management when he’s not playing baseball, negotiated a $2.1 million deal in January but was able to have $1.5 million designated as a signing bonus, which is protected and not reduced. Only the $600,000 specified as salary in the contract gets prorated.
“It will be strange to receive no money or paychecks throughout the year,” he said. “I’m thankful for my background in finance, because I’m comfortable with my ability to budget. I do worry about the 10 other guys in my situation. Technically will be receiving zero income until next April. That’s a long time to budget ahead.”
One option for players could be licensing money they are owed that had been retained for them by the union.
“Our PA is offering a stipend of sorts for guys in similar situations,” Stripling said. “But I don’t know how much money or how often they can receive it. It also comes from our `war chest,′ which is money saved for salaries in case of a work stoppage in 2022. Most guys will try to avoid pulling money from that unless they are in dire situations.”