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Source: Yankees releasing 45 minor-leaguers amid COVID-19 pandemic

George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, is

George M. Steinbrenner Field in Tampa, Florida, is seen on March 13. Credit: AP/Carlos Osorio

Add the Yankees to the list of teams cutting minor-leaguers loose during the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to a source, the organization on Monday began the process of releasing 45 players from its minor-league system.

For context, it should be noted that the Yankees’ system is the largest in baseball — they have about 375 minor-leaguers overall — and the total of 45 isn’t dramatically higher than the number of players who would have been released by the end of a typical spring training. Nonetheless, the move prompted plenty of social media backlash.

That is in large part because the Yankees are by far the sport’s most valuable franchise, estimated most recently by Forbes to be worth $5 billion, though experts believe the Steinbrenner family easily could surpass that if it ever chose to put the club on the market.

But the backlash also resulted in part because of what teams such as the Royals did.

The small-market Royals, near the bottom of Forbes’ list (John Sherman purchased the franchise for just over $1 billion in November), announced last Friday that they would not release any of their minor-leaguers and said their minor-leaguers will be paid through Aug. 31, which is essentially when most minor- league seasons end. The Twins, Reds and Astros were among the teams that made a similar commitment to their minor-leaguers.

“Understand this: The minor- league players, the players you’ll never know about, the players that never get out of rookie ball or High-A, those players have as much impact on the growth of our game [as] 10-year or 15-year veteran players,” Royals general manager Dayton Moore told local reporters Friday. “They have as much opportunity to influence the growth of our game as those individuals who played for a long time because those individuals go back into their communities and teach the game, work in academies, are JUCO coaches, college coaches, scouts, coaches in pro baseball.

“They’re growing the game constantly because they’re so passionate about it. So we felt it was really, really important not to release one minor-league player during this time, a time we needed to stand behind them.”

MLB clubs agreed in March to pay their minor-leaguers $400 per week through May. With the inevitable quickly coming into focus last week — meaning no minor-league baseball season — Thursday brought the first wave of mass releases, with the Mariners, Rays, Nationals, Orioles, and Brewers among the teams that cut minor-leaguers loose.

The Yankees are expected to keep paying their remaining minor-leaguers the $400-per-week stipend through the end of June, and all of the organization’s non-uniformed employees will receive their full salaries and benefits through at least June 15.

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