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Reminder: there are still over 60 free agents out there

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Spring training games are starting today. Once they get going, teams begin to cut down players, ever so slowly, as they approach opening day.

In the meantime, there are over 60 free agents still looking for work. All of them are listed below.

Most of them, because of that cut down dynamic, are going to find it even harder to find a job given that teams are firing, not hiring. Some of them — the good ones, such as Jake Arrieta, Greg Holland, Lance Lynn and the like — will eventually find work, one presumes, meaning that guys in camps right now can play as well as they ever have only to find that they’ve been made redundant by a late free agent signing.

Not the greatest dynamic for everyone involved, but that’s where we are at the moment.

If you’re hiring:

Arismendy Alcantara 2B
Pedro Alvarez 1B/DH
Brett Anderson SP
Jake Arrieta SP
Mike Aviles SS
Erick Aybar SS
Andrew Bailey RP
Jose Bautista RF
Matt Belisle RP
Joe Blanton RP
Blaine Boyer RP
Clay Buchholz SP
Melky Cabrera LF
Trevor Cahill SP
Tyler Clippard RP
Alex Cobb SP
Alejandro De Aza RF
R.A. Dickey SP
Stephen Drew SS
Lucas Duda 1B
Yunel Escobar 3B
Andre Ethier RF
Scott Feldman SP
Matt Garza SP
Carlos Gonzalez RF
A.J. Griffin SP
Jason Grilli RP
Franklin Gutierrez LF
J.J. Hardy SS
Jeremy Hellickson SP
Greg Holland RP
Matt Holliday DH
John Jaso RF
Jon Jay LF
Ubaldo Jimenez SP
John Lackey SP
Adam Lind 1B
Francisco Liriano RP
Jonathan Lucroy C
Lance Lynn SP
Cameron Maybin CF
Logan Morrison 1B
Michael Morse 1B
Jason Motte RP
Mike Moustakas 3B
Mike Napoli 1B
Ricky Nolasco SP
Mike Pelfrey SP
Oliver Perez RP
Brandon Phillips 2B
Zach Putnam RP
Ben Revere LF
Mark Reynolds 1B
Trevor Rosenthal RP
Robbie Ross Jr. RP
Carlos Ruiz C
Michael Saunders RF
Seth Smith RF
Geovany Soto C
Drew Storen RP
Huston Street RP
Ichiro Suzuki RF
Koji Uehara RP
Danny Valencia 1B
Neil Walker 2B
Jayson Werth LF

MLB execs go to bat in favor of shrinking minor leagues

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Tim Brown of Yahoo Sports published an article this morning in which he quotes several executives of MLB teams, including Diamondbacks GM Mike Hazen and Blue Jays president and CEO Mark Shapiro, defending the league’s proposal to cut 42 minor league baseball teams.

We first learned of the idea about a month ago. The proposal was widely panned, even drawing scorn from Congress as more than 100 members of Congress — including Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren — signed a letter condemning the league. In the time since, MLB has spent considerable time defending itself amid the public scrutiny. MLB also got into a bickering match with Minor League Baseball.

To generally sum up what was said in Brown’s column: the GMs echoed what MLB previously said in defensive of its proposal, which is that cutting 42 minor league teams (mostly in short-season and rookie ball) would free up more money to pay players more and improve their working conditions, including food and travel as well as facility conditions.

It is hypocritical for the league and team executives to express concern for the salaries and the quality of life for minor league players. After all, Major League Baseball spent millions of dollars lobbying Congress in order for language in the Fair Labor Standards Act of 1938 to be amended. Doing so allowed the league to classify minor leaguers as seasonal workers and thus not owed things like a minimum wage and overtime pay, among other worker protections. This all happened because MLB is the defendant in a class-action lawsuit, originated by Aaron Senne and several other former minor league players, alleging that the league violated state and federal minimum wage laws with minor league players.

Shapiro is not a fan of Sanders’ constant harping on the league’s proposal. Shapiro said, “I’m never going to go toe-to-toe with him on domestic policy. But I will go toe-to-toe with Bernie Sanders on professional baseball.” As Brown explains, Shapiro is among those who believes that having a smaller minor league system would allow his organization to offer greater focus to each player remaining within that system. With the increased focus, the team would be better able to develop major league-caliber prospects. As we know, teams love prospects because their salaries are artificially depressed for the first six years of their careers.

One anonymous GM harped on the fact that “minor league baseball is not a moneymaker.” It didn’t sound like he was complaining; rather, simply recognizing how their parent teams view the situation. Another anonymous GM, however, said that the 42 teams are on the chopping block “for a reason.” He added, “I’m guessing that reason isn’t because they had overwhelmingly positive gate turnouts or that their facilities were in good shape. I think that’s been the criteria.”

As I pointed out last month, there are two teams that, at minimum, disprove the shabby-facility talking point. The Lowell Spinners (short-season) have had multiple renovations done in recent years. Team owner Dave Heller called his team’s stadium “arguably the best facility in the New York-Penn League.” The Quad Cities River Bandits, as another example, have earned awards from BallparkDigest.com for “Best Ballpark Improvement” and finished in third place as recently as two seasons ago for “Best View in the Minors.”

As for attendance, BallparkDigest has the 2019 numbers for all 160 teams here. The four Double-A teams on the chopping block — the Binghamton Rumble Ponies, Chattanooga Lookouts, Erie SeaWolves, and Jackson Generals — ranked 91st, 74th, 80th, and 130th, respectively. Only one of those teams is significantly below the 50th percentile. Furthermore, one of the High-A teams on the list, the Frederick Keys, ranked 57th in attendance this past season, close to being in the top one-third of the entire minor league system.

The arguments are obviously facile. We should expect nothing less, however, as these execs do the bidding of their team’s ownership. Their jobs necessitate developing players efficiently and thoroughly. Chopping 42 minor league teams would have the double benefit to them of helping reduce overhead so the owners can report higher profits, as well as making their system run more efficiently (or so they think). So be it if thousands of jobs in towns across the U.S. get slashed in the process. So be it if small towns lose a central focus of their local economies and cultures. So be it if baseball becomes significantly less accessible across the nation.