Many baseball minor leaguers don’t earn a living wage

(l-r) Curtis Terry and Tim Beckham
Photos by Charles Hallman

Minor League Baseball (MiLB) players’ salaries are far below their major league counterparts. So far below, in fact, that they barely meet the federal poverty rate of $12,880 for individuals.

As a result, for those minor leaguers vying to one day be in “The Show,” they must oftentimes live in crowded apartments and work extra jobs off the field in order to make ends meet. Major League Baseball (MLB) before the 2020 season told the minors that minimum salaries must increase at least 38-72 percent.

The Associated Press has disclosed the following weekly pay raises: $110 for rookie ($1,600 month); $210 for Class A ($2,000 month); $250 for AA ($2,400 month); and $298 for AAA ($2,800 month).

“I think you should be paid more for sure,” said St. Paul Saints infielder Tim Beckham. The team is the Minnesota Twins’ top minor league club. 

The 32-year-old signed with the Saints in February and played his first game with the Triple-A club in June. Beckham, the first overall pick in the 2008 MLB Draft who made his majors debut in 2013 with Tampa Bay, has played with three clubs during his pro career.

“So many minor leaguers don’t make a living wage,” added Curtis Terry, Beckham’s teammate. He was a 13th-round pick in 2015 by Texas and briefly played for the Rangers in 2021. He has labored in the minors for most of his career as well. “We don’t get paid a living wage,” he reaffirmed.

Terry received a $100,000 signing bonus after he was drafted. “After taxes, I got like $68,000,” he recalled. To avoid the typical cramped living arrangements often provided to minor leaguers, Terry instead used his bonus money to set himself up in a one- or two-bedroom apartment, either living alone or with a roommate, he told us.

 “A lot of dudes would do like four or five people in a two- or three-bedroom, and I didn’t want to do that space,” admitted the 25-year-old infielder in his first season in St. Paul.

Unless you make the majors, playing baseball isn’t the charmed life. It can be tough for the player as he works his way up the ladder to the majors with no guarantees. Basketball and football have much quicker routes to the big leagues.

“You’re not guaranteed to go straight to the majors,” said Terry. “It’s a slow move. You have to work through all the levels.”

The Saints, even before they became a Twins affiliate, had a sterling reputation around baseball for treating their players right. “The Saints have done a really good job,” said Terry.

But this isn’t the case throughout the minors, a topic not often discussed by media and fans. Everyone, even ballplayers, deserve a living wage for their labor.

“I’ve seen the environment of minor league baseball,” said Beckham, who has been on a tear, leading MiLB with a .416 batting average during his first stint with the Saints. Last Saturday the Twins purchased Beckham’s contract and he joined the parent club Sunday in San Diego. “My focus is on getting back to the major league.”