Overwork ’em and let ’em go. That what the Braves decided to do to reliever Cory Gearrin on Tuesday, releasing him seven months after he underwent Tommy John surgery.
Gearrin, 28, had a 4.28 ERA in 77 relief appearances for the Braves from 2013, striking out 68 in 69 1/3 innings.
In 2013, Gearrin made the Braves out of spring training for the first time and got off to a great start. Too great for his own good, in fact. Braves manager Fredi Gonzalez used him eight times in a 10-day span in late April. By the end of May, he had appeared in 30 of Atlanta’s 54 games. He started struggling, got sent down and then finished the season on the shelf with shoulder tendinitis. He came down with the sore elbow last spring and had Tommy John surgery a week into the regular season.
Gearrin might not be the only rehabbing pitching the Braves cut loose this winter. Kris Medlen and Brandon Beachy are similarly coming back from Tommy John surgery, only they’re arbitration eligible and are set to make a lot more money than Gearrin, who was earning the major league minimum. Medlen received $5.8 million last year, while Beachy earned $1.45 million. One or both could be non-tendered in December.
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?