UPDATE: The Jays sign Shawn Marcum; Five arbitration eligible player to go

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UPDATE: One down, five to go, as Shawn Marcum signs, avoiding arbitration. The deal is for $850,000, which ain’t bad for your top starter.  Now, whether having Shawn Marcum as your top starter is another question . . .

1:25 P.M.: Richard Griffin of the Toronto Star reports that the Blue Jays have decided to play hardball with the six players on their roster who have accepted arbitration and that they won’t negotiate at all after figures are exchanged tomorrow.

I suppose that means he’s a tough guy. Of course it’s easy to be tough when your arbitration eligible players are Shaun Marcum (hurt all last season),  Brian Tallet (generic swingman), Casey Janssen (hurt in 2008 and ineffective last year), Shawn Camp (useful, but not expensive or unique) and Jeremy Accardo (up and down between the minors and the big club). The only interesting case is Jason Frasor who is a nice player to have and arguably made real money last year ($1.45 million), but it’s not as though an arbitration loss there will break the bank.

People talk about the arbitration process being skewed in favor of the players or in favor of the owners all the time, but ultimately it’s skewed in favor of the side with the better case. This year the Blue Jays have a lot of good cases. Why not roll the dice?

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.