Eric Hosmer cleared to begin swinging a bat

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Eric Hosmer has been sidelined for nearly a month with a stress fracture in his right hand, but Royals manager Ned Yost told Blair Kerkhoff of the Kansas City Star today that he has improved enough to where “he can swing but not hit.”

Hosmer stood in the batter’s box today and tracked pitches from left-handed reliever Scott Downs, who is currently making his way back from a neck sprain. The 24-year-old will continue to swing without contact until Thursday, when he’s expected to hit off a tee and take some soft toss. Yost envisions him going out on a minor league rehab assignment if Triple-A Omaha makes the playoffs, where he’d get potentially 15-20 at-bats before rejoining the Royals.

Billy Butler has functioned as the regular first baseman in Hosmer’s absence and the recently-acquired Josh Willingham has thrived as the regular designated hitter, but Hosmer’s return would provide more flexibility for Kansas City’s lineup.

Hosmer was batting .267 with six home runs and a .689 OPS over 104 games prior to the injury.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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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?