In addition to exercising their $9 million option on center fielder Denard Span for next season the Nationals also declined their $15 million option on first baseman Adam LaRoche and their $14 million option on reliever Rafael Soriano.
LaRoche had one of the best seasons of his career, hitting .259 with 26 homers and an .817 OPS in 140 games, but with Ryan Zimmerman likely needing a position change and the outfield set in stone the Nationals no longer had room for him in the lineup at first base. He receives a $2 million buyout.
Soriano had a great first half, saving 22 games with a 0.97 ERA, but he was stripped of closing duties while posting a 6.48 ERA in the second half and was almost left off the playoff roster. He figures to get a one-year deal somewhere and has the secondary numbers to suggest a bounce back.
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?