Many of the roughly 8,000 minor league players — those who are not part of their affiliated M.L.B. team’s 60-man player pool for the 2020 season — will miss an entire year of their careers. Most M.L.B. teams have committed to paying their minor league players, many of whom earn less than $15,000 per season, $400 a week beyond June 30.
Playing a 2020 season was always a more daunting undertaking for MiLB than for M.L.B. Unlike M.L.B. franchises, minor league teams rely heavily on revenue from people in the stands — tickets, beer and hot dog sales and sponsorships tied to attendance.
Because they do not have widespread TV or streaming deals, it would not be feasible for MiLB to play games in empty stadiums, as M.L.B. plans to do beginning July 23. Another complicating factor: MiLB plays in smaller towns across the country and would have had to negotiate many more state and local reopening guidelines.
The MiLB season was originally scheduled to start on April 9 and end in August. Without any games, minor league teams were forced to reduce their workforces and seek federal and local aid. Some teams had been trying creative ways to bring in at least some cash by renting out their stadiums for overnight stays or selling ballpark food for takeout, but nothing could replace a 140-game schedule for a full-season team.
According to MiLB figures, minor league teams earned an average of $70,000 in gross revenue per home game, and $5.4 million per year. Most of that money went to operating expenses, including paying employees (each team averages 21 full-timers and 200 seasonal workers) and rent (teams pay a combined $65 million annually, the majority to local governments). M.L.B. teams paid for and provided the minor league players and coaches.