ST. PETERSBURG — The Rays will continue to pay their minor-leaguers a $400 weekly stipend at least through the end of June.
About 200 players were informed Thursday afternoon. The move provides them with some money for living expenses as they remain idled since being sent home from spring training in mid-March due to the coronavirus shutdown.
“I’m super appreciative,” pitcher Shane Baz said via direct messaging. “I think it speaks to the true character of the organization, and how they are trying to help us every way they can. It makes me proud to be with the Rays.”
The Rays joined at least 11 other teams in agreeing to continue the payments to players not on the 40-man roster in some form, according to Baseball America. The Oakland A’s are the first team to say the stipend will no longer be paid, part of large-scale cutbacks that also include significant furloughs and salary reductions throughout their organization.
Major League Baseball first directed teams to make the payments through April 8 (with minor-league play set to start the next day) then extended the program through May 31, but any decisions going forward are up to the teams.
"I really had no idea what to expect knowing May 31 was coming up and ... I was over the moon for that the come out that the Rays are going to take care of us the way they did for the next month,'' catcher Chris Betts said. "This money right now, especially for guys who aren’t as well off, this is a huge deal. I think it’s plenty and I think it’s really generous.
"I’m beyond excited about it, and I’m honestly just more stoked and proud that the organization I play for took this route more than anything.''
The traditional minor-league season is expected to be canceled, but there is some industry speculation teams may bring at least some if not most or all minor-leaguers back to their spring camps later in the summer for instruction and potentially some games. A decision on paying the players past June 30 may be based on where that stands, and what happens with the major-league season.
The Rays, like other teams, did release a small number of minor-league players, believed to be around 20-25, who likely would have been part of the standard end-of-spring cuts.
The Rays were among the first teams to implement salary reductions and furloughs, though no jobs were lost. No major- or minor-league coaches or scouts were believed to be furloughed.