Atlanta has been linked to various left-handed relievers leading up to the trade deadline and the Braves finally got their man, acquiring Scott Downs from the Angels for minor leaguer Cory Rasmus.
Downs has long been one of the best lefty relievers in baseball, posting a 2.27 ERA in 422 appearances since 2007, and the 37-year-old impending free agent has a 1.84 ERA in 29 innings this season. He’ll slide into a setup role in front of closer Craig Kimbrel.
Rasmus was a first-round pick in 2006, but has thrown just seven career innings in the majors at age 25. He has fantastic numbers at Triple-A this season with a 1.72 ERA and 48 strikeouts in 37 innings, but has also walked 5.4 batters per nine innings and projects as a middle reliever if his control remains an issue.
Over the past several weeks we’ve heard a lot of news about teams furloughing front office and scouting staff, leveling pay cuts for those who remain and, most recently, ceasing stipends to minor league players and releasing them en masse. The message being sent, intentionally or otherwise, is that baseball teams are feeling the pinch.
The Kansas City Royals, however, are a different story.
Jon Heyman reported this afternoon that the Royals are paying their minor leaguers through August 31, which is when the minor league season would’ve ended, and unlike so many other teams, they are not releasing players either. Jeff Passan, meanwhile, reports that the Royals will not lay any team employees off or furlough anyone. “Nearly 150 employees will not take pay cuts,” he says, though “higher-level employees will take tiered cuts.” Passan adds that the organization intends to restore the lost pay due to those higher-level employees in the future when revenue ramps back up, making them whole.
While baseball finances are murky at best and opaque in most instances, most people agree that the Royals are one of the lower-revenue franchises in the game. They are also near the bottom as far as franchise value goes. Finally, they have the newest ownership group in all of baseball, which means that the group almost certainly has a lot of debt and very little if any equity in the franchise. Any way you slice it, cashflow is likely tighter in Kansas City than almost anywhere else.
Yet the Royals are paying minor leaguers and front office employees while a great number of other teams are not. What’s their excuse?