The Pirates made the best free agent signing of last winter when they inked Francisco Liriano to a two-year contract, though it nearly fell apart because of an injury to Liriano’s non-throwing arm.
That injury caused the deal to be knocked down to $12.75 million from its original $14 million and it resulted in Liriano spending the first 40 days of the season on the DL, but he’s been lights out since returning, allowing one or no runs in 13 of his 19 starts, including five of his last six (though he did give up 10 runs in 2 1/3 innings in the other).
Liriano’s latest gem Monday saw him strike out 13 batters over seven scoreless innings in a defeat of the Padres. It was the second highest strikeout total of his career (he fanned 15 against the A’s last July). He improved to 14-5 with a 2.53 ERA on the season.
The Twins have to be shaking their heads to see Liriano experiencing such success. He went 6-12 with a 5.34 ERA for Minnesota and the White Sox last year. Though the Twins practically gave him away in a deadline deal, they weighed re-signing him last winter. Still, they weren’t going to offer him more than a one-year deal. The Pirates went two years and are thrilled that they did, considering that Liriano might be this winter’s No. 2 free agent starter behind Matt Garza (another ex-Twin) if he were back on the market. Despite the late start, Liriano has 126 strikeouts in 121 innings this season. The Twins’ strikeout leader is Kevin Correia with 80 in 140 2/3 IP.
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?