In a battle of the Vargases (Vargi?) earlier today, Kennys Vargas of the Twins was the undisputed winner against Royals left-hander Jason Vargas. Check out this laser beam of a home run. Don’t blink or you might miss it:
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That one got out of there in a hurry. In fact, the exit velocity on the ball was 113 mph. Andrew Ettel, coordinator of baseball research for the Twins, notes that it was one of the three hardest tracked home runs in MLB so far this season. I believe it.
Vargas, a 24-year-old switch-hitter, batted .274/.316/.456 with nine home runs and 38 RBI in 53 games as a rookie last season. Today’s home run was his first of 2015.
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?