8:31pm: Cooper now tweets that minor-league players will need to receive authorization from their team before joining an indy ball roster. But he adds that the expectation is that many teams are amenable to doing so.
7:12pm: Wondering what’ll happen to those minor-league players who weren’t named to MLB teams’ 60-man player pools? While teams are paying stipends to those minor-leaguers they’ve retained, those players’ contracts were formally suspended.
Accordingly, as J.J. Cooper of Baseball America reports, Major League Baseball has determined that clubs lack grounds to prevent minor-leaguers from signing on with independent league outfits. The inverse is also true: MLB teams can’t encourage players to sign on with indy clubs. The situation is different for 40-man players, as MLB contracts were never declared suspended.
As a practical matter, relatively few players will likely end up landing new gigs. The independent leagues aren’t generally rolling in cash, needless to say, and their revenue stream faces even greater challenges than those of MLB teams since in-person attendance is the whole ballgame. Those that are cobbling together 2020 seasons obviously won’t be at full tilt.
That said, the appeal is obvious for players, many of whom would surely make a buck for playing ball rather than sitting dormant and losing a year of development. The calculus would obviously change if there’s some sort of minor-league season to speak of — a decision that could soon be made.
At the same time, there’s obviously some risk in playing outside the affiliated ranks. The controlling MLB team wouldn’t necessarily be on the hook for any injuries or health issues that may arise. And it’s an open question whether an otherwise available team stipend would be withheld from a player earning money for playing baseball in an unaffiliated uniform.