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Mets’ Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz are poised to return to the rotation

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The Mets’ rotation is working its way back up to full strength, and if all goes well this weekend, Jacob deGrom and Steven Matz could find themselves contributing to the playoff race as soon as Sunday.

According to MLB.com’s Anthony DiComo, deGrom will get the ball for Sunday’s series finale against the Twins, but will be operating under a strict 75-pitch cap as the Mets try to suss out the extent of his range after missing 17 days with right forearm tightness. deGrom was shelved after a rough outing against the Marlins on September 1, when he took his eighth loss of the season with three runs and four walks over five innings. There’s a bigger picture to look at here, with deGrom’s 3.32 FIP and 3.04 ERA coming in 9th- and 11th-best among major league starters, but his effectiveness from this point through the end of the regular season will depend on his ability to both stay healthy and regain the command he exhibited earlier in the year.

Left-hander Steven Matz, who hit the disabled list in August with left shoulder tightness, is facing a tougher path to recovery. After throwing 20 pitches in an abbreviated bullpen session on Wednesday, Matz will get a full session on Saturday, which should give the Mets some indication of his ability to rejoin the team for a final postseason push. Prior to his injury, Matz responded to his first full season in the majors with 2.8 fWAR and a 3.40 ERA in 132 ⅓ innings.

It’s difficult to understate the pivotal timing of the the starters’ return. Despite the 18 pitchers on their 40-man roster, the Mets are still struggling to piece together a serviceable rotation beyond Noah Syndergaard and the occasionally brilliant, sometime-home run hitter Bartolo Colon. They’re one game up on the Cardinals in the wild card standings, who have gone 4-6 in their last ten games and have also made some last-minute adjustments to their rotation. While defending their postseason spot with a hodgepodge of contributors (among them, the recently-demoted Rafael Montero and recently-promoted rookies Seth Lugo and Robert Gsellman) isn’t out of the question, it’s difficult to imagine a prolonged stay in the playoffs without deGrom and Matz bolstering the rotation.

The Royals are paying everyone. Why can’t all of the other teams?

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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?