Over at MLB.com/blogs, Ashley Marshall wrote a very interesting article today about how minor leaguers really live. Everyone knows that minor league players are paid very little. Unless they are the beneficiary of a large early-round draft bonus, it is difficult for minor league players to make ends meet. But exactly how difficult is something that can seem vague and theoretical.
Marshall spoke with Minnesota Twins minor league pitching prospect Todd Van Steensel (having an excellent year by the way) who gave the author an inside look at his finances and monthly budget. This is fascinating reading and puts the financial dilemma that most minor league players face into stark terms.
From Opening Day through June 17, Van Steensel earned $3,213 in wages and he was given $737.50 in per diems — the money the Major League organization allocates to players each day for food.
The bad news is he has already paid $570 in taxes, $2,688.75 on rent and a combined $903 on dinner, lunch and groceries. He was forced to borrow money from teammate Brandon Peterson to pay his rent when the landlord demanded the first four months up front plus a security deposit, and he’s already paid $609 in clubhouse dues with a similar number expected in the second half of the season.
Van Steensel is in the red before he takes into account other everyday expenses like coffee or occasional trips to the cinema or an ice cream cone.
In total, Van Steensel has spent $700 more than he’s earned, and he still owes Peterson almost $450.
As you know there's an active lawsuit right now regarding minor league wages. It seems self-evident to me that minor league players should be paid more than they are. How much more, I'm not sure, but surely it can't be good for a player's development for them to be distracted by financial issues. I'd rather have their emotional energy going into learning how to get better at baseball rather than simply scrambling to survive. Even a few hundred extra dollars per month per player, which MLB could surely afford, would reduce such stresses.
Aside from any ethical or moral considerations, it strikes me that a wise organization could gain a competitive advantage by paying their minor league players a higher wage so they have to worry less about basic survival and more about the game on the field. I don't know enough about the internal working of minor league contracts to know if teams have the latitude to do that, but we'll research it and find out.