Mets closer Bobby Parnell went on the disabled list after a perfect inning of relief on July 30 and did not return, eventually undergoing surgery to repair a herniated disk in his neck. It was an unfortunate end to his first season as the team’s full-time closer, as he had a 2.16 ERA and 22 saves in 50 innings before landing on the shelf.
Parnell, now 29 and ready for spring training, believes the closing job is still his. He said in a conference call, “In my head I feel like I’m still the closer. I’m going to go along with that until told otherwise.” The Mets and Parnell recently avoided arbitration, agreeing to a one-year, $3.7 million deal in his second year of arbitration eligibility.
While the bullpen last year had a few veterans with a modicum of closing experience, their bullpen going into 2014 is relatively young and inexperienced. Behind Parnell, the Mets have Jeurys Familia, Josh Edgin, Gonzalez Germen, Vic Black, and Scott Rice, with the 32-year-old Rice being the only one older than 27.
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?