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Forbes: The average MLB team is worth $1.54 billion

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Forbes has released its annual team valuation list. Surprise: the Yankees are the most valuable team at $3.7 billion, followed by the Dodgers ($2.75 billion) and Red Sox ($2.7 billion). One very interesting finding, per Mike Ozanian of Forbes, is that the average MLB team is worth $1.54 billion, an increase of 19 percent from one year ago. As Ozanian explains, it has a lot to do with local TV deals.

Nick Stellini of FanGraphs made this observation, however:

You may recall the various news items we wrote about here last year pertaining to the fight for minor leaguers to make a living wage. Last summer, Reps. Brett Guthrie (R-KY) and Cheri Bustos (D-IL) introduced H.R. 5580, also known as “Save America’s Pastime Act,” which sought to amend language in Section 13 of the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. In short, the bill wanted to reclassify minor league players as a “short-term seasonal apprenticeship” — to use commissioner Rob Manfred’s exact words — so that they weren’t protected under the law.

This has been an ongoing battle, though it reached prominence in 2014 when minor leaguers Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle filed a lawsuit against MLB alleging that minor leaguers are underpaid and exploited. The trio has hit some bumps in the road in their legal quest, but had their case recertified as class action last month.

Just how little do many minor leaguers make? Tony Blengino, a former front office executive with the Brewers and Mariners, wrote for ESPN last year that “a first-year pro can expect to make barely more than $1,000 a month in wages.” Attorney Michael McCann wrote for Sports Illustrated in 2014 that “most [minor leaguers] earn between $3,000 and $7,500 for a five-month season.” He added, “Many minor league players earn less than the federal poverty level, which is $11,490 for a single person and $23,550 for a family of four.”

Last summer, Crashburn Alley’s Adam Dembowitz did some back-of-the-envelope math, approximating what it might cost the league to properly pay its players:

With Major League Baseball having seen significant growth, that percentage is even smaller using today’s numbers. You can even reduce the hypothetical $50,000 salary for minor leaguers if you feel like it’s too much (it’s not), significantly cutting down on the figure. The above figure comes out to an average salary cost of $1.25 million per minor league team. With about eight minor league teams per organization, that comes out to $10 million. Per Forbes, MLB teams posted an average operating income of $34 million.

Even beyond the math, it makes sense for major league teams to foster a healthy lifestyle for its players. Last year, the Phillies became the first team to make a significant investment (about $1 million), making sure their minor leaguers eat healthy. Catcher J.P. Arencibia, who was in the Phillies’ system last year, said, “Food is an integral part of everything you do. They’re going to pay millions of dollars for players and then have peanut butter and jelly sandwiches?”

Assistant GM Ned Rice said, “We want them to not have to worry about anything other than baseball. When they’re playing for the Phillies, they’ll have that stuff taken care of for them.”

Teams should follow the Phillies’ lead not just when it comes to diet and nutrition, but in other aspects of their players’ lives. Paying them a living wage will reduce their stress, allowing them to concentrate fully on baseball rather than making sure the electric stays on in the winter. It will allow them to spend the offseason focusing on maintaining a good workout regimen, rather than taking an offseason job in manual labor that can potentially result in a career-ending injury. It will allow players to afford a reliable car, rather than driving a 20-year-old beat-up car that can break down on the highway at any second. It will allow players to afford their own housing, rather than cramming in with six other players in a three-bedroom apartment. They’ll sleep better. Even sleep is something some teams are just now realizing is important.

Congratulations, Major League Baseball, on continuing to make money hand over fist. Now pay your minor leaguers.

Cubs fire pitching coach Chris Bosio

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In something of a surprising move, the Chicago Cubs fired their pitching coach, Chris Bosio on Saturday. Bosio had held the job since the 2011-12 offseason.

The Cubs made the NLCS this year, but were nowhere as near the formidable as their 2016 World Series champion iteration. While there were several reasons for that, one was that the pitching staff, which featured multiple, better-than-expected performances in 2016, but took a step back in 2017. Some of that was personnel — Joe Maddon did not have Aroldis Chapman to call on in the postseason like he did last year — and a lot of that was mere regression from veterans like Jon Lester and John Lackey. A lot of it had to do with a much higher walk rate this year than in the past.

Still, there was no chatter during the season or at the time of the Cubs’ playoff exit the other day that Bosio might be a fall guy. The Chicago Tribune reports that it was Joe Maddon’s call and that he had grown displeased with Bosio. The Tribune report suggests that Cubs pitchers will be displeased with the move as they were devoted to Bosio. Coaches, of course, come and go, so I suspect they’ll get over it.

Whatever the case, Bosio likely won’t say unemployed for long. He is widely credited with helping Jake Arrieta transform from a project to an ace and for the considerable and the somewhat unexpectedly successful development of Kyle Hendricks. The Tribune suggests that he’d be a good fit in Minnesota, where his former teammate Paul Molitor is in search of a new pitching coach.

There are several intriguing coaches available at the moment, most notably Mike Maddux, who has been the Nationals pitching coach but whose status is now in flux given the firing of Dusty Baker. Maddux’s brother Greg, of course, is a spring training pitching instructor for the Cubs. The Tribune adds that Maddon may look to his old Tampa Bay Rays pitching coach Jim Hickey or, possibly, even recently fired Red Sox manager John Farrell, who made his bones as a pitching coach.