7:23pm: MLB has seemingly thrown some cold water on the situation in issuing the following statement (hat tip to Adam Berry of MLB.com):
“We do not have concerns about the Pirates’ and Marlins’ compliance with the basic agreement provisions regarding the use of revenue sharing proceeds. The Pirates have steadily increased their payroll over the years while at the same time decreasing their revenue sharing. The Marlins’ ownership purchased a team that incurred substantial financial losses the prior two seasons, and even with revenue sharing and significant expense reduction, the team is projected to lose money in 2018. The union has not informed us that it intends to file a grievance against either team.”
5:32pm: Pirates president Frank Coonnelly issued a lengthy statement on the matter, stating that the Pirates are not under investigation (Twitter link via Adam Berry of MLB.com):
“The Pirates are not being investigated by MLB and the Commissioner has no concerns whatsoever with the manner in which the Pirates are investing its revenue sharing receipts into building a winner. The Pirates have and will continue to invest its revenue sharing receipts in an effort to put a winning team on the field As required by the Basic Agreement, we share with MLB and the Union each year the detail as to how our revenue sharing receipts are used to put a winning team on the field. What the detail shows is that while our revenue sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons, our Major league payroll has more than doubled over that same period. Indeed, our revenue sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on Major League payroll, let alone all of the other dollars that we spend on scouting, player development and other baseball investments, several areas in which we are among the League leaders in spending. Thus, the Commissioner is well-equipped to address whatever ’concerns’ the Union now has over the Pirates’ effort to win.”
1:33pm: The Major League Baseball Player’s Association has raised concern with the commissioner’s office regarding the Marlins and Pirates, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald. Yahoo’s Jeff Passan had recently reported that the union was considering the idea of going to commissioner Rob Manfred with their concerns.
The root of the union’s concern is whether the two teams are appropriately reinvesting the money that they receive under the league’s revenue-sharing program, both Jackson and Passan noted in their reports. The MLBPA issued the following statement to Jackson:
“We have raised our concerns regarding both Miami and Pittsburgh with the Commissioner, as is the protocol under the collective bargaining agreement and its revenue sharing provisions. We are waiting to have further dialogue and that will dictate our next steps.”
As Jackson notes, it wouldn’t be the first time that revenue-sharing concerns regarding the Marlins were raised. A similar scenario occurred back in 2010, at which point Miami did (briefly) increase its spending; the Marlins rolled out their first $100MM+ payroll in 2012, the debut season of a taxpayer-funded stadium in Miami, only to conduct a massive firesale the following offseason.
Jackson reports that the Marlins are set to receive roughly $60MM in revenue sharing profits this season and could take home as much as $160MM from the league between that sum, the $50MM BAMTech payout that all 30 clubs are receiving and the national television contract. At present, we have the Marlins projected for a $97MM payroll in 2018, though there are likely still moves on the horizon that would impact that bottom line. The Marlins could very well find an offer to their liking for star catcher J.T. Realmuto, and Jackson also reports that Starlin Castro has asked the team to be traded. (It’d already been reported that he was “hoping” for a trade out of Miami, though this is a more formal declaration of his preference.)
Neither the Marlins or Pirates have signed a free agent to a Major League deal this offseason; instead, the teams have been largely focused on trading away big league assets. Miami has shipped out Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Yelich, shedding more than $40MM of payroll in the process. Even with all of those dealings, the Marlins still haven’t reached their target of a $90MM payroll, though moving Castro (and possibly Realmuto) would get them to said point.
The Pirates, meanwhile, have traded Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen, though their focus on acquiring MLB-level assets and the remaining presence of players like Starling Marte and Gregory Polanco seemingly indicates that they’re not embarking on an aggressive tanking endeavor in the same manner as the Marlins.
Pittsburgh seems like a better candidate to step out into the open market and add a mid-range player or two. Beyond the aforementioned focus on MLB-ready assets is the fact that the Pirates have recently opened the season with payrolls in the $95-100MM range but currently projects to just a bit over $85MM in 2018. Obviously, no one would expect Pittsburgh to be a player for a top-tier free agent, but a modestly priced upgrade for the back of the rotation, the outfield or the bullpen nonetheless seems plausible.
The Commissioner’s Office has not yet released any kind of statement on the matter, though the collective bargaining agreement stipulates that Manfred can impose penalties onto clubs that do not appropriately reallocate their revenue sharing profits. Per the CBA, the commissioner’s office can also:
“…require a Club to submit a plan for its financial performance and competitive effort for the next two years. Such a plan must include a pro forma financial presentation that specifies its attendance, revenues, payroll, player development expenditures, non-player costs, and capital spending. The Commissioner, after consultation with the Players Association, may direct the Club to change aspects of its plan, including the level of competitive effort reflected in the plan, or take other actions as he considers appropriate (including escrow of a portion of a Club’s revenue sharing payments).”