The move, as first reported by Jeff Passan, is not totally a surprise, with many agents and player advocates arguing for MLB picking up the housing coats as the right thing to do. The move comes after player salaries were increased for the 2021 season, and with MiLB players regarded these days as employees rather than lowly paid interns, the decision was made by MLB to devote more money to farm systems. Yes, still more needs to be done on the salary front–$500 a week for a Low-A player still seems low.
The past season was a learning experience for MLB, MiLB and players alike, as everyone was adjusting to operating in post-COVID times while also seeing the effects of the new MiLB scheduling system, which called for week-long home stands and road trips. Social media also plays a factor here, with players more easily able to tell their stories directly to fans when it comes to bad food and flawed living conditions. While in general players and MiLB front offices seemed to like–or at least tolerate–the new schedule structure, it also led to some unfortunate circumstances where players decided to live out of hotels rather than commit to apartments. In a few situations, a lack of hotel rooms in tourist-heavy areas put players in a bind, leading to accusations that their teams were not supportive. And while many romanticize our youth and fondly remember living six to an apartment right out of school, the consensus is that this should be a choice and not a lifestyle forced upon players by the MiLB system. From ESPN:
While MLB has yet to outline its plan formally, six team officials told ESPN they are starting to prepare to help house players across each of their four minor league affiliates. In mid-September, according to sources, owners from the league’s 30 teams agreed unanimously to a plan that would provide housing for minor league players. Whether they will offer stipends that fully cover housing or provide the lodging itself has yet to be decided, sources said. An MLB spokesperson said the league is finalizing the details of the plan….
“This is a historic victory for minor league baseball players,” Harry Marino, the executive director of Advocates of Minor Leaguers and a former minor league player, told ESPN. “When we started talking to players this season about the difficulties they face, finding and paying for in-season housing was at the top of almost every player’s list. As a result, addressing that issue became our top priority.”
The cost to each team will be around $1 million a season, but that cost varies by market and includes some of the most expensive markets in the country: the housing costs for a Brooklyn Cyclones player will be considerable more than a Tri-City Dust Devils player. Some teams have already begun picking up housing costs, such as the Houston Astros. How these funds will be administered is still be finalized, Passan reports; players could receive stipends, or MLB teams could have their MiLB affiliates arrange housing and then reimburse the teams.