Pirates pitching coach Ray Searage was interviewed on 93.7 radio in Pittsburgh and indicated that he expects free agent A.J. Burnett to retire, saying:
I’m on that percentage point where he’s not going to come back. Right now I’m leaning that way, where he’s going to retire.
Burnett was one of the best pitchers in the National League last season, throwing 191 innings with a 3.50 ERA and 209 strikeouts at age 37, but he’s dropped some pretty strong hints about retirement all offseason and is apparently willing to pass up a big payday to call it a career.
That would be a tough blow to Pittsburgh’s rotation, which already has a big health-related question mark in Wandy Rodriguez and is hoping to turn around Edinson Volquez’s career. Of course, with a front two of Francisco Liriano and Gerrit Cole the Pirates are still in pretty decent shape.
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?