In mid-October, reports surfaced that MLB planned to foot the bill for all minor league housing. The news then was met with wide applause, as the plight of minor league ballplayers has been well-documented and maligned.
Now, the news is official.
MLB’s housing policy will require teams to provide furnished accommodations, with a single bed per player and no more than two players per bedroom. The housing must be “located at a reasonable, commutable distance from the ballpark,” the commissioner’s office said Thursday. Most newsworthy is that minor leaguers will no longer be permitted to sign leases of any kind. Instead, the organization will sign the leases and allow the minor league players to live in the housing unit.
Additionally, clubs will be required to pay utilities for the housing, such as electric, water and Wi-Fi.
“To the extent that apartments, rental homes or host families are not feasible,” MLB said, “clubs may choose to provide hotel rooms that satisfy standards put in place.”
While teams generally arrange for hotel accommodations for road trips, players largely had been left to find their own housing for homestands. Players retain the right to opt out of team-provided housing.
MLB estimated the policy will apply to 90% of minor leaguers, including those assigned to extended spring training and the Arizona Complex League. It will not apply to players with minor league contracts earning $100,000 or more or to players with major league contracts who are on optional or outright assignment to the minor leagues.
“This is a historic victory for players, who forced the league’s hand by speaking up throughout the 2021 season,” Advocates for Minor Leaguers director Harry Marino said in a statement. “Let there be no mistake: this victory is the product of collective action by players. ”
After successfully lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from federal minimum wage laws, MLB raised wages between 38% and 72% when the minor leagues returned in 2021 from a one-season absence caused by the COVID-19 pandemic. Players at rookie levels saw the weekly minimum rise from $290 to $400, players at Class A from $290 to $500, at Double-A from $350 to $600 and at Triple-A from $502 to $700. Players are paid only in-season.
The minor league minimum was $46,600 last season for a player signing his first major league contract and $93,000 for a player signing a second or later major league contract. For players in the major leagues, the minimum was $570,500.
MLB took over operation of the minors from the National Association of Professional Baseball Leagues and cut minor league affiliates from 162 to 120 for this past season. There are four per big league team – Triple-A, Double-A, High-A and Low-A – and additional clubs are allowed at spring training complexes and in the Dominican Republic.
The Albuquerque Isotopes are a Triple-A affiliate of the Colorado Rockies.
“The owners went into our first season modernizing the player development system focused on addressing longstanding issues that have impacted minor league players for decades,” MLB executive vice president of baseball operations Morgan Sword said in a statement. “Owners knew that a change of this scale always meant that more work would need to be done to achieve our shared goals. … The owners are confident that this investment will help ensure that minor league players have every opportunity to achieve their dreams of becoming major leaguers.”