Don't count the Angels out on Lackey and Figgins

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CBS’s Scott Miller talks to Angels’ GM Tony Reagins who says that we shouldn’t assume that John Lackey and Chone Figgins have played their last games in Anaheim:

While that still could happen, Angels GM Tony Reagins said Wednesday that there’s “no question” the club intends to attempt to retain Lackey, as well as leadoff man Chone Figgins. Both are high atop the desirables this winter in a weak free-agent class. . .

. . . Reagins said the Angels have been in touch with Lackey’s representative, Steve Hilliard, since the season ended. “The communication has been good thus far,” Reagins said. “I think that’s what’s important.” As for Figgins, whom the Philadelphia Phillies and others have expressed interest in, Reagins says that there have been “positive lines of communication.”

I’m not sure why everyone has discounted Anaheim’s chances of re-signing Lackey and Figgins.  As of now, the Angels have a little north of $70 million in guaranteed 2010 money to Torii Hunter, Gary Matthews, Jr., Bobby Abreu, Brian Fuentes, Scott Kazmir, Scot Shields, Ervin Santana, and Juan Rivera.  They have 10 or so pre-arb players who made less than half a million last year. Most of them will get raises, but even then, that puts the team at, what, the $95 million range, tops?  Spare change rounds out the roster.

The Angels had a payroll of $113 million in 2009 and Reagins tells Miller that he expects it will be similar in 2010.  Assuming there’s at least a bit of give in those numbers, it’s at least plausible to suggest that the Angels could sign both Lackey and Figgins to long term deals without significant hometown discounts.  Yes, that means walking away from Vlad, but maybe the Angels do that anyway, covering the DH slot with Abreu and Rivera and whoever needs rest at any given time.  And let us not forget: Gary Matthews wants out of Anaheim. No, it’s not likely the Angels will find someone dumb enough to pick up a significant portion of his salary, but maybe a little of it goes away.  Crazier things have happened.

Maybe that’s a stretch, but they certainly could be players for one of those guys, and any hot stove speculation that doesn’t at least acknowledge Anaheim’s chances at signing either Figgins or Lackey — or maybe even both — is missing part of the story.

MLB now trying to get minor leaguers exempted from minimum wage law at the state level

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In recent years, Major League Baseball spent significant amounts of money lobbying Congress to exempt minor leaguers from the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938. They succeeded last year, as minor leaguers are now considered seasonal workers and as such are not owed minimum wage or overtime pay.

MLB is not yet done attacking minor leaguers. Ben Giles of the Arizona Capitol Times reports that MLB is trying to get Arizona lawmakers to exempt players from state minimum wage law. A proposed bill, HB 2180, is being sponsored by Rep. T.J. Shope (R – Coolidge) and would protect MLB from lawsuits, past or present, for not paying minor leaguers at least minimum wage during spring training. Minor leaguers already do not get paid for their work in spring training, so this is simply a preemptive maneuver by MLB to protect itself from potential lawsuits. As Giles notes, HB 2180 would enshrine the exemption in federal law in Arizona’s state statute.

Shope said, “I think it’s just trying to clear up what MLB considers a gray area on their blank. … My assumption is they obviously do have a concern, and are trying to protect a flank of theirs more in the pro-active sense.” Talking about minor leaguers, Shope said spring training is “essentially a tryout. You’re not on the team yet.”

Garrett Broshuis, a former major leaguer and one of the lawyers representing Aaron Senne, Michael Liberto, and Oliver Odle in a case Craig wrote about here, spoke to Giles for his article. Broshuis said, “It really is just unfortunate, because the people of Arizona passed this law to require employers to pay all workers a minimum wage, and these ballplayers are performing a service that is a valuable service, and they deserve to be compensated at least the minimum wage for it.”

Broshuis is seeking class action status in a lawsuit against Major League Baseball in Florida and Arizona, the league’s two homes for spring training. Arizona is home to the Cactus League, the spring training league for the Angels, Diamondbacks, Cubs, Reds, Indians, Rockies, White Sox, Royals, Dodgers, Brewers, Athletics, Padres, Giants, Mariners, and Rangers. A federal judge denied Broshuis’s request but he appealed and is waiting on a ruling.

MLB makes a ton of money during spring training the same way it makes money during the regular season: by charging for tickets, concessions, merchandise, and parking. Minor leaguers are part of the player population helping attract fans to the ballpark, so they deserve to be compensated for their work. That they are not is criminal enough, but to brazenly push legislation to remove any legal remedies they might have had is even more evil. MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, taking in more than $10 billion last year. The league and its individual teams can afford to provide a comfortable life for minor leaguers, but every day it makes the choice not to do so out of avarice.