Major League Baseball told a Senate committee that the sport’s antitrust exemption prevents teams from moving without approval and allows the sport to maintain the minor leagues at a wide level.
“The opposite is true,” Manfred wrote in a 17-page response. “The baseball antitrust exemption has meaningfully improved the lives of minor league players, including their terms and conditions of employment, and has enabled the operators of minor league affiliates to offer professional baseball in certain communities that otherwise could not economically support a professional baseball team.”
Manfred said the exemption was responsible for MLB franchise location stability. Only one MLB team has changed cities since 1972, the Montreal Expos leaving Canada to become the Washington Nationals for the 2005 season.
Manfred said MLB supports 184 teams in 43 states, including minor league affiliates and partner leagues launched when guaranteed farm teams were cut from 160 to 120 after the 2019 season. The figure does not include teams in Florida, Arizona, or the Dominican Republic training complexes.
Additionally, in Mandred’s response, he wrote that “Without the exemption, there would be baseball in far fewer communities, and without MLB’s substantial subsidization, the cost of attending a minor league baseball game would be significantly higher in many places,”
He said that while Advocates for Minor Leaguers claim to pay and benefits would improve in a free market, “on the contrary, under such a system, the top prospects … may do better. But the much larger number of non-prospect players likely would do worse.”
MLB agreed in papers filed this month in federal court to pay minor leaguers $185 million to settle a lawsuit alleging violations of minimum wage laws. Minimum salaries for players with minor league contracts are $400 weekly at rookie ball, $500 at Class A, $600 at Double-A, and $700 at Triple-A.
Top prospects receive substantial signing bonuses. Shortstop Jackson Holliday, the top pick in this year’s draft, agreed to an $8.19 million bonus with Baltimore. First-round picks last year received $1.8 million and up, and each of the 73 players who signed among the top 75 selections received at least $747,500.