Cozens also joked about how the check was more than he made all season. Technically, that wasn’t true as he earned $1,700 per month for five months according to Breen, meaning Cozens took home $8,500 this season. Even then, his reward nearly doubled the amount of money he made this year, putting his salary at $16,500 for five months of action.
Meanwhile, minor-league players get the short end of the stick when it comes to salary.
Some are lucky to receive a sizable signing bonus – Cozens received $659,800 from the Phillies in 2012 as a second-round pick – but most don’t ever see that kind of money. Instead, their smaller bonus quickly runs dry and they are left with the paltry salary they receive now.
According to this graphic from the Star, the average salary for a major-league baseball player has increased 2,000% in the last 40 years. Meanwhile, the wages for minor-leaguers have raised just 75%. Compared to the inflation of 425% in that span, minor-leaguers are actually making less.
Obviously the league would support this bill and may have even lobbied for its introduction.
In a statement released when the bill was introduced, the league stated “being a Minor League Baseball player is not a career but a short-term seasonal apprenticeship in which the player either advances to the Major Leagues or pursues another career.” They also called minor-league players “creative professionals” which are typically considered exempt from hourly pay laws.
Matt Winkelman of the Good Phight hypothesized what would happen if each minor-leaguer received the $40,000 salary that Cozens and other players on the 40-man roster would receive. He estimated the cost to pay minor-leaguers would rise by seven times more from $25 million to nearly $175 million. However, on a per-team basis, the cost would be around $5 million. This was about how much the Phillies paid reliever David Hernandez last season. Winkelman said “Teams should be motivated to this because they can save a David Hernandez by having just one player [become] a big leaguer purely by taking care of this aspect of their life.”
Unfortunately, we may not see much change in how minor-league players are paid unless they found a way to unionize. The current player’s union focuses on issues at the major-league level, alienating those in the minors. Considering many players sign when they are still teenagers – some as young as 16 if they are signed abroad – the idea of joining a union to help their wage doesn’t cross their mind. Unless the former minor-leaguers can best what is undoubtedly a stout legal team the league can put together in their lawsuit, it would take a union collectively bargaining for the minor-leaguers to close the wealth gap.
Baseball is one of America’s longest traditions, and like all traditions, they change with time. As the salaries for major-league players increase, the wages for minor-leaguers remain stagnant. At a certain point, players will be less inclined to baseball if they aren’t being paid fairly, which would hurt the game overall. For the betterment of the game – and to finally adhere to working laws – baseball should fix the wage gap for minor-league players.