According to Chris Cotillo of MLB Daily Dish, the Mariners granted Scott Baker his release today. Ryan Divish of the Seattle Times reports that he asked for his release after declining an assignment to Triple-A.
Signed to a minor league deal over the winter, Baker appeared to have a rotation spot to lose after Hisashi Iwakuma went down with a finger injury and Taijuan Walker fell behind due to a sore shoulder, but he pitched himself out of consideration with an awful spring. The 32-year-old allowed 12 runs (nine earned) in just 12 Cactus League innings. He struck out just one batter and allowed 16 hits and seven walks. He also hit three batters in a row in one of his starts. Put it all together and you have a ghastly 1.92 WHIP.
Baker has three major league starts to his name since 2011, but he shouldn’t be long before he gets an opportunity elsewhere. As for the Mariners, they will now likely go into the season with a rotation of Felix Hernandez, James Paxton, Erasmo Ramirez, Randy Wolf, and Roenis Elias.
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?