Second baseman Dan Uggla has had a pretty good spring with the Nationals, batting .270 with two doubles, two home runs, and six RBI in 37 at-bats. He also has a .426 on-base percentage with a .486 slugging percentage. Due to his poor performance over the last few years with the Braves (and in four games with the Giants last year), he can’t be counted on as a regular player, so if he makes the Nationals’ 25-man roster, it will be as a bench player.
That’s a role Uggla admits he wouldn’t feel comfortable in, Mark Zuckerman of CSN Washington reports:
“I’d have to say no,” [Uggla] said. “I’ve never done it before. It’s not where I feel like I’m at in my career. That’s not what I’m looking to do.”
The Nationals signed Uggla to a minor league deal in late December. He compiled a disastrous .442 OPS in 145 plate appearances with the Braves and 12 with the Giants last season and has been a significantly below-average defender at second base throughout most of his career.
Yunel Escobar is slated to serve as the Nationals’ everyday second baseman. They also have Danny Espinosa and Kevin Frandsen capable of filling in at the position as well.
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?