The Major League Baseball Players Association, concerned after both the Pittsburgh Pirates and Miami Marlins cut payroll, has taken a step toward attempting to force changes in the behavior of clubs.
The players union announced it expressed its concern to the MLB that teams were not spending their revenue sharing proceeds to help improve play. The response by the commissioner’s office was they were not worried about violations.
Both MLB teams are amidst a rebuild. Thus far during the offseason, the Marlins have traded Giancarlo Stanton, the league home run champion, Marcell Ozuna, Christian Yelich and Dee Gordon for prospects. This has all taken place since new ownership and CEO Derek Jeter took control in October.
The Pirates recently traded veteran Andrew McCutchen the face of the franchise for years, and its ace on the mound Gerrit Cole.
The collective bargaining agreement in baseball states that each club will use its receipts from revenue sharing in an effort to make improvements to its performance on the field. It prohibits the use of those receipts to service any debt that is not related to improving performance on the field.
Miami ended with a $117 million payroll for 2017, which was a team record for the franchise and up from its 2016 payroll of $81 million but only 20th amongst the league’s 30 teams. It had the lowest payroll in 2015 of $63 million. Pittsburgh’s payroll in 2017 was $96 million which was down $4 million from its 2016 payroll of $100 million.
The president of the Pirates Frank Coonelly defended the spending of his team. He said that while revenue sharing has decreased for the last second seasons, payroll at the major league level has more than doubled during the same period.
He added that revenue sharing is now only a small fraction of what is spent on payroll, let alone all the other money spent on things from scouting to player development and other investments in baseball.
It is not expected that the players union will file any grievance against either or both of the teams.
The Marlins may move one more player, catcher J.T. Realmuto, during the offseason before the players report to spring training in less than a month and it does not appear the Pirates will be moving any additional big payroll players this offseason.