Today is cool in that, for many teams, it’s pitchers and catchers reporting day. But it’s not so cool for all sorts of players still sitting in free agent limbo. Indeed, it seems like there are a lot more players — and especially a lot more good or at least useful players — still looking for work than usually is the case in mid-to-late February.
Some of this is because players are asking too much. Some of it is because players may still have draft pick compensation tied to them as a result of their rejecting a qualifying offer. There are, for any given player, reasons for why they’re still unemployed. It just seems like a lot of ’em. Among the notables, either in quality or at least in name recognition:
Some of those dudes, like Francoeur and Freese, are just roster filler. Others are fliers or reclamation projects like Brown. Others like Fowler and Desmond, however, seem like dudes who could really help a lot of teams right now. Either way, they’re all names you likely would’ve bet would be on someone’s roster by February 17. And you have to figure they and their agents are getting antsy.
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?