ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays are putting some staff on furlough and cutting the pay of most other full-time employees as a result of the financial impact of the coronavirus shutdown.
Rays officials declined comment on the decision, which makes them the first of the 30 major-league teams to implement aggressive expense cutting moves, though others may also do so.
The furloughs, which start Saturday, are considered temporary, meaning no jobs are being eliminated.
No timetable was set for the furloughs, which could last months as employees are to be recalled when needed and not necessarily when there is an announcement of play resuming. For example, if games are played at another site or with no fans, then tickets sales workers or fan experience staff would not be needed at Tropicana Field.
Staffers were told the costs of health insurance for anyone furloughed will be covered by the team, and there could be assistance for anyone facing significant financial hardships.
The Rays have between 400-500 full-time employees, and it was not clear how many were furloughed — though it is believed to considerably less than half — or how the decisions were made. In some departments it appeared to be junior-level employees.
Pay cuts affect all remaining staff making above a certain threshold — say, $50,000 — including on- and off-field members of the baseball operations staff, starting at 10 percent and increasing progressively based on how much the employee makes.
Nearly all the other 29 teams reportedly agreed to pay their baseball operations staff through May, though it was not clear if all would be at full pay, and did not preclude later cuts. The Rays, who are considered among the lowest-revenue teams, opted to be proactive and make broad cuts now.
The team also canceled its annual internship program, which included 25-30 positions, some paid.
Principal owner Stuart Sternberg and team presidents Brian Auld and Matt Silverman delivered the general news to the staff in a conference call on Tuesday afternoon, noting the impact of the shutdown on their business and that it could continue through 2021 and 2022.
Ticket refund information coming
The Rays will have details later this week on options for refunds, exchanges and/or credits (with some incentives) for tickets purchased for March and April games that were not played. Major League Baseball initially instructed teams to wait until the status of the season was determined so there could be a unified approach, but has now given teams permission to set their own policies.