The Oakland A’s will furlough some full-time employees during the coronavirus pandemic, beginning with scouts, reports MLB insider Jon Heyman on Tuesday. The team hasn’t yet made an official public announcement, but the news was confirmed by Susan Slusser of the S.F. Chronicle, citing an anonymous team spokesperson.
Slusser reports in her story that pro scouts will be the first affected, with amateur scouts following after the upcoming MLB draft, but notes that other departments could also see furloughs or pay cuts ahead. Click her link above for all the details.
Later on Tuesday, Jeff Passan of ESPN added to that news with a related development, reporting that the A’s will stop paying their minor league players a weekly $400 salary at the end of May.
The A’s are not the first team to institute cuts during this pandemic, which has now caused the postponement of the first two months of the 2020 season. The Rays began furloughs at the beginning of May, and the Angels, Reds, and Marlins started informing some of their employees about furloughs over a week ago. In his tweet linked above, Passan notes that “other decisions from organizations should arrive in the coming days.”
One feature each of these cases has in common is that none involve layoffs. Employees are being temporarily furloughed, and retain health benefits through at least the end of the October.
On the other hand, some clubs have taken the opposite approach and made public commitments to their full-time employees. A roundup from Ken Rosenthal of The Athletic:
The Phillies announced they will retain all their employees through October; the Giants and Blue Jays made the same pledge through Oct. 1, and the Brewers ensured their baseball-operations staff will stay intact for the entire season.
The Twins, Cardinals and White Sox are retaining all their employees through June 30. The Pirates are holding off on furloughs in baseball operations for the foreseeable future. The Tigers and Rockies have signaled they will continue paying staffers for as long as possible without setting specific end dates.
This had been expected by several scouts I had spoken to, but what a terrible shame: Make use of these immensely knowledgeable people’s skills through the draft - and then furlough them. I applaud those clubs who will continue to take care of their scouts throughout this time.
The MLB draft is scheduled to begin on June 10. There is still no official plan for when a 2020 season might begin, nor whether fans might be able to attend games at any point this year.
UPDATE: The team released the following letter from owner John Fisher:
To our friends, family, and colleagues,
I hope each of you and your families are safe and sound during this challenging period.
I am writing to you personally today because you are our fans, employees, and members of our A’s family. This has been a tremendously difficult day and I wanted to share some important updates with you. While I normally stay behind the scenes, mostly because I believe in the leaders who run the team day-to-day, I felt that you should hear this news directly from me given the extraordinary nature of these times.
I am very saddened to let you know that we have implemented a significant temporary furlough of staff positions, and reduced compensation for staff members who are not furloughed. We are also suspending compensation for the A’s minor league players.
Our first priority is to those who are being impacted by these decisions, and we will do everything possible to support them during this time. Many of those affected by these decisions have been loyal to the A’s for years – some even decades. I want to apologize to every person impacted.
Baseball is more than a job – it is a way of life. People who work for our team are our family – our very foundation — and they work tirelessly to help the A’s compete in this most precious game. COVID-19 has brought a tragic loss of life and sickness to so many in our community, and it has impacted us all in ways we could have never imagined. Our organization, like so many others across the country, has had to make tough and painful decisions. We all miss baseball, and we want it back as soon as possible. We want the season to get underway soon, and we believe that the healing power of the game will help bring our community here at home – and across the nation — together again.
I know that many of you will wonder why the A’s are cutting costs now. Nobody knows how this pandemic will evolve over the long term. What is clear is that our revenues will be dramatically reduced this year. None of this diminishes the pain of today’s actions, but it is an honest acknowledgement of the circumstances of the moment.
I became involved with the A’s because I love the game of baseball. I love the drama that can unfold in a few innings, or even a single pitch. I love rooting for our team. I want our employees and fans to know that we remain deeply committed to the long-term future of the Oakland A’s, including our new ballpark, which we know can be a positive force for the City of Oakland and the East Bay. With this said, above all else, my concerns today are with every single person in our organization who is being personally affected. Through no fault of any of our staff, today’s actions are hard.
We look forward to welcoming employees and fans back to the game as soon as possible.
Oakland A’s Managing General Partner
A quick take from Melissa Lockard of The Athletic:
Knowing what I do about the people who actually run the A’s day to day and how much it is a family-like feeling there, you know these cuts are devastating to them. Ownership should bare the full brunt of this decision.— Melissa Lockard (@melissalockard) May 27, 2020
UPDATE 2: Here is the letter sent by A’s general manager David Forst to the team’s minor league players, informing them of the suspension of their weekly pay. Passan estimates this move will save the A’s “a hair over $1 million.”