White Sox, Mariners shopping for offense

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, the White Sox and Mariners have been active in early trade talks, with both teams looking for offense.
It shouldn’t come as much of a surprise in either case. The White Sox have gotten lucky with Andruw Jones, but Juan Pierre has struggled in the leadoff spot and Mark Kotsay, who appeared likely to play more than Jones initially, has been a complete void through the first month.
The Mariners went for sentimentality over sense when they re-signed Ken Griffey Jr. over the winter. There was little reason to think he’d be this bad — he’s hit .212/.268/.242 with no homers and five RBI through 66 at-bats — but there were plenty of better choices to fill the DH spot in Seattle. The Milton Bradley-for-Carlos Silva swap, which was universally acclaimed, also couldn’t have worked out any worse.
There aren’t many obvious trade candidates available for either team right now, though. The Royals should be glad to part with Jose Guillen if anyone is willing to take on the remainder of his $12 million salary for this year, but since they are the Royals, there’s no way of telling if that’s really the case. Also, Guillen has played just one game in the field this year, and both the White Sox and Mariners would prefer someone who could play an outfield corner with some regularity.
The Marlins, with Mike Stanton on the way, could make Cody Ross available in a month or so, but only if both Chris Coghlan and Cameron Maybin step up their games. The Orioles should be willing to talk about Luke Scott, since they’re going nowhere and he doesn’t figure into their long-term plans. Jody Gerut is expendable in Milwaukee and is a useful part-time player.
There’s also free agency as an option. Of course, if either team wanted to try Jermaine Dye, the move would be done already. Dye was always open to returning to Chicago, and he listed Seattle as a favored destination last month. Gary Sheffield is another veteran waiting for a call. Plus, there’s the talented-yet-troubled Elijah Dukes still looking for work.

Cubs owner Tom Ricketts continues to cry poor

Tom Ricketts
Nuccio DiNuzzo/Chicago Tribune/Tribune News Service via Getty Images
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MLB owners and the MLB Players Association continue to hash out details, some in public, about a 2020 baseball season. The owners have been suggesting a shorter season, claiming that they lose money on every game played without fans in attendance. The union wants a longer season, since players are — as per the March agreement — being paid a prorated salary. Players thus make more money over the 114 games the MLBPA suggested than the 50 or so the owners want.

Cubs chairman Tom Ricketts has been among the more vocal owners in recent weeks, claiming that the coronavirus pandemic and the ensuing shutdown of MLB has greatly hurt MLB owners’ business. Speaking to ESPN’s Jesse Rogers, Ricketts claimed, “The scale of losses across the league is biblical.”

Ricketts said, “Here’s something I hope baseball fans understand. Most baseball owners don’t take money out of their team. They raise all the revenue they can from tickets and media rights, and they take out their expenses, and they give all the money left to their GM to spend.” Ricketts continued, “The league itself does not make a lot of cash. I think there is a perception that we hoard cash and we take money out and it’s all sitting in a pile we’ve collected over the years. Well, it isn’t. Because no one anticipated a pandemic. No one expects to have to draw down on the reserves from the past. Every team has to figure out a way to plug the hole.”

Pertaining to Ricketts’ claim that “the league itself does not make a lot of cash,” Forbes reported in December that, for the 17th consecutive season, MLB set a new revenue record, this time at $10.7 billion. In accounting, revenues are calculated before factoring in expenses, but unless the league has $10 billion in expenses, I cannot think of a way in which Ricketts’ statement can be true.

MLB owners notably don’t open their accounting books to the public. Because the owners were crying poor during negotiations, the MLBPA asked them to provide proof of financial distress. The owners haven’t provided those documents. Thus, unless Ricketts opens his books, his claim can be proven neither true nor false, and should be taken with the largest of salt grains. If owners really are hurting as badly as they say they are, they should be more than willing to prove it. That they don’t readily provide that proof suggests they are being misleading.

It’s worth noting that the Ricketts family has a history of not being forthcoming about their money. Cubs co-owner Todd Ricketts got into hot water last year after it was found he had used inaccurate information when paying property taxes. In 2007, he bought two properties and demolished both, building a new, state-of-the-art house. For years, Ricketts used information pertaining to the older, demolished property rather than the current property, which drastically lowered his property taxes. Based on the adjustment, Ricketts’ property taxes increased from $828,000 to $1.96 million for 2019, according to The Chicago Tribune. Ricketts also had to pay back taxes for the previous three years.

At any rate, the owners want to pass off the financial risk of doing business onto their labor force. As we have noted here countless times, there is inherent risk in doing business. Owning a Major League Baseball team has, for decades, been nearly risk-free, which has benefited both the owners and, to a lesser extent, its workforce. The pandemic has thrown a wrench into everybody’s plans, but the financial losses these last three months are part of the risk. Furthermore, when teams have done much better business than expected, the owners haven’t benevolently spread that wealth out to their players, so why should the players forfeit even more of their pay than they already are when times are tough?