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Mets release unspecified number of minor-leaguers, source says, as farm systems face increasing uncertainty

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen (L) and

Mets general manager Brodie Van Wagenen (L) and COO Jeff Wilpon look on during a news conference on Monday, May 20, 2019 at Citi Field. Credit: Jim McIsaac

The Mets released an unspecified number of minor-league players on Thursday, a source said, and committed to paying the rest their weekly $400 stipend through June.

In addition to the Mets, the Mariners, Brewers, Rays, Nationals, Orioles and Reds also reportedly cut minor-leaguers this week, and more clubs are expected to do so in the coming days. The farm system bloodletting seems to be the result of several factors, including the expected cancellation of the 2020 minor-league season, the potential contraction of the minors starting in 2021 and a desire for what amounts to minuscule savings amid the COVID-19 pandemic.

Although MLB and the players’ union hope to salvage the major-league season, the same is unlikely for the minors, which financially is almost entirely dependent on fans attending games and related sales. Minor-leaguers do not have a union. Without a normal minor-league season, teams don’t have anywhere to put all of their normal 200 or so farmhands for 2020.

That could be even truer in the future. Before the pandemic, MLB wanted to cut the number of minor-league teams from 162 to 120 (four per parent club). MiLB resisted, but the nationwide shutdown has wrought havoc on many of these small seasonal businesses, which now may not have a choice but to cede to MLB’s desires. Cutting each club’s farm system from about six non-complex teams to four means much fewer minor-leaguers overall.

Why so many releases this week in particular? Teams won’t have to include them in any continued payments. (Also, under normal circumstances, some minor-leaguers get cut at the end of spring training, but that didn’t happen this year.)

MLB clubs agreed in March to pay their minor-leaguers $400 weekly through May. With that window closing, each team is deciding this week what to do — from the A's, who are stopping payments, to the Marlins, who opted to continue to pay that $400 per week per player through August (which is about when the regularly scheduled minor-league season ends).

The Mets have agreed to pay their minor-leaguers through June. Each released player saves a team about $1,600 per month or $5,000 for the rest of the would-be season.

Former NFL quarterback and Heisman Trophy winner Tim Tebow remains with the Mets.

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