Agent Scott Boras last week pledged to pay the salaries of his released minor league clients, as first reported by MLB Network’s Jon Heyman (via Twitter). At the time, Boras called the releases “completely unanticipated” and expressed a desire to make sure those clients received the income they’d anticipated. However, Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic now reports (subscription link) that the MLBPA nixed the gesture because it violates the union’s agent regulations, which stipulate:
Any gifts or promise of gifts, of money or of any other thing with an aggregate value exceeding $500 U.S. in any calendar year, by an Expert Agent Advisor to any single player, or any persons related to or associated with such player, are prohibited.
Other agents were understandably opposed, feeling it could set a precedent of paying to retain clients in other scenarios. It’s not hard to see the manner in which they could fear such a gesture snowballing — be it in the form of increased pressure to follow suit or in the form of released clients jumping ship to the Boras Corporation (or any other agency willing to cover unexpected salary losses in 2020). Boras won’t be disciplined by the MLBPA, Rosenthal adds.
The massive wave of minor league releases in late May and early June came as the agreed-upon window to pay minor leaguers a $400 weekly stipend expired. Many of those players might’ve been cut near the end of Spring Training — spring cuts didn’t happen due to the pandemic shutdown — or prior to the amateur draft in a normal season anyhow. But there were countless others who found themselves cut largely because of the likely cancellation of the minor league season. Between that likelihood and the looming specter of minor league contraction, which feels increasingly inevitable, most expect that there simply won’t be as many minor league jobs to go around once play resumes. A few clubs (e.g. Royals, Tigers, Twins) opted not to cut any minor leaguers, but we saw many other teams cut 30, 40 or even 50-plus minor leaguers apiece.
That Boras even attempted to step in underscores the manner in which minor league players are underrepresented. And on the surface, it’s a rather backwards sentiment to think that the MLB Players Association spoke out to prohibit a gesture that would’ve helped to protect the livelihood of several players. However, minor league players don’t pay union dues and aren’t protected by the MLBPA as a result. The union’s objection is sensible, but that shouldn’t overshadow the reality that we’re past due for a change to the overall minor league compensation structure. Notably, tonight’s MLBPA counter-proposal to MLB is reported to include the establishment of a joint $5MM fund which would, in part, support minor league players.