Would you believe the Nationals “are a potential sleeper team” for Cliff Lee?

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Jerry Crasnick of ESPN.com writes that the Nationals “are a potential sleeper team in the competition to land” Cliff Lee, quoting “one baseball insider” as saying: “They’re going to step up and try to get a top free agent. They’d like to make a splash.”

Perhaps, but the odds of the top free agent on the market choosing a team that has lost 298 games in the past three seasons seems pretty slim unless the Nationals offer significantly more years and/or money than everyone else. And what are the chances of the Nationals out-bidding the Yankees for Lee?

Crasnick notes that “if the Nationals fail to land Lee”–and I’d change the wording from “if” to “when”–they’ll likely turn their attention the trade market, perhaps going after one of the Rays’ starters like Matt Garza or James Shields. That’s a whole lot more plausible, and Shields in particular has already been linked to a few teams as a possible trade target.

Red Sox employees “livid” over team pay cut plan

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Even Drellich of The Athletic reports that the Boston Red Sox are cutting the pay of team employees. Those cuts, which began to be communicated last night, apply to all employees making $50,000 or more. They are tiered cuts, with people making $50-99,000 seeing salary cut by 20%, those making $100k-$499,000 seeing $25% cuts and those making $500,000 or more getting 30% cuts.

Drellich reported that a Red Sox employee told him that “people are livid” over the fact that those making $100K are being treated the same way as those making $500K. And, yes, that does seem to be a pretty wide spread for similar pay cuts. One would think that a team with as many analytically-oriented people on staff could perhaps break things down a bit more granularly.

Notable in all of this that the same folks who own the Red Sox — Fenway Sports Group — own Liverpool FC of the English Premier League, and that just last month Liverpool’s pay cut/employee furlough policies proved so unpopular that they led to a backlash and a subsequent reversal by the club. That came after intense criticism from Liverpool fan groups and local politicians. Sox owner John Henry must be confident that no such backlash will happen in Boston.

As we noted yesterday, The Kansas City Royals, who are not as financially successful as the Boston Red Sox, have not furloughed employees or cut pay as a result of baseball’s shutdown in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Perhaps someone in Boston could call the Royals and ask them how they managed that.