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MLB seeks to reduce size of national reserve roster in latest labor offer to players’ union, sources say

Major League Baseball has asked for the possibility of eliminating hundreds of minor league player jobs in its latest job offer to the MLB Players Association, sources familiar with the proposal told ESPN.

Currently, the National Reserve List – which governs the number of minor league players a team can field at any one time – is 180. The league has proposed keeping the number at 180 for 2022 but allowing the board of the commissioner to reduce the maximum number of players “below 150” over the remainder of the collective agreement, sources said. The proposal says the league could adjust the size of the reserve roster “up or down.”

MLB, according to a league source, has no plans to reduce the size of the roster in 2023 but wants the flexibility to do so in future seasons.

The minor leagues have already undergone a massive overhaul in recent years. In December 2020, MLB eliminated 42 teams – and an unknown number of player jobs – implementing a structure in which 120 teams were evenly distributed among the 30 major league clubs: one Triple-A, Double-A , High-A and Affiliate Low-A each.

The Domestic Reserve List has been implemented as part of the changes. Previously, teams were not limited in the number of players they could have under minor league contracts. Five teams currently have more than 180 minor leaguers on their national reserve list, according to a league source. (Teams can have up to 190 players in the offseason.) Two teams, according to the source, have fewer than 150.

The potential roster reduction was part of a 28-point deal package that included a proposal to limit the number of options – or the number of times a player can be moved from the major leagues to the minor leagues in one season – to five, according to the sources. Currently, teams hold unlimited options on qualified players in a single season, allowing some to be shuttled between Triple-A and the major leagues.

MLB locked out the players Dec. 2 after the previous basic agreement expired. Although the union does not represent minor league players, issues that affect those not on 40-player rosters — such as the amateur draft and the international signing system — are part of the negotiations. The union declined to comment.

In earlier negotiations in July 2021, the union offered a 20-round national amateur draft, one of the few things it and the league have agreed to, sources say. In the pandemic-shortened 2020 season, the draft was reduced from the previous standard 40 rounds to five. Last year, the draft was 20 rounds, with 612 high school and college players drafted. Under the 20-round proposal, undrafted players are free agents who can sign with any team.

Issues regarding the treatment of minor league players have come to the fore in recent years, with a low-wage class action lawsuit currently in federal district court making below-minimum wages for minor leaguers a long-standing issue. and teams in 2022 for the first time mandated by the league to provide housing for minor league players. MLB has raised the salary for minor leaguers in 2021, with the minimum wage for a player Triple-A at $16,800, Double-A at $14,400, Class A at $12,000, complex league at $9,600 and League Dominican summer at $3,000.

During a Friday hearing for the federal case, an MLB attorney argued that minor league players should continue to go unpaid during spring training because they “benefit more from opportunities to play.” training offered to them than clubs, who are really just incurring the cost of having to provide that training.In court, The Athletic reported, the league had previously said players were paid thousands of dollars a week, arguing that amateurs pay such sums to train.

Under the league’s proposal, it would notify the union of changes to the national reserve list before the first spring training date a team can pick a player, sources said. Anyone who signs a minor league contract would be added to the national reserve list within 15 days of signing the deal or when they appear in their first game, sources have said.

Teams can carry an additional 70 minor league players on an international reserve list if they have two Dominican Summer League teams and 35 if they have one. National reserve roster players who are not assigned to one of the four affiliate teams may be on a team’s rookie league rosters in the Arizona Complex League and Florida Complex League, where they play at a team’s spring training site.


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