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Rockies owner says the team doesn’t have much payroll flexibility

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Rockies owner Dick Monfort met the press today and delivered some bad news for any Rockies fans who hoped that the team might make some acquisitions this offseason to improve upon its dreadful performance: “We don’t have a lot of flexibility next year,” Monfort told the press, making it clear that the team does not plan to spend much this winter.

The Rockies started the 2019 season with a $145-150 million payroll or thereabouts. That ranks 12th in the bigs and is more than $50 million below next year’s Competitive Balance Tax threshold. They also drew nearly three million fans this year and just yesterday — literally yesterday — announced that they had inked a new TV deal that kicks in in 2021 and will approximately double what they’re currently getting each year.

Which is to say, crying poor right now is a pretty bad look for Mr. Monfort. The same Mr. Monfort who, along with his brother and some now-gone co-owners, paid only $92 million for the club back in the early 90s. It’s now probably worth well north of a billion bucks. Their original cash stash was built after their father sold their family’s meatpacking business to ConAgra back in the day so, really, they’re the recipients of multiple massive windfalls. But now, sadly, they lack “financial flexibility.”

The Rockies to have some pretty hefty financial outlays at the moment. Nolan Arenado and Charlie Blackmon each signed big contract extensions in the past couple of years. They signed Wade Davis and Ian Desmond to a couple of ill-advised long-term deals. Some key players, such as Trevor Story, Jon Gray, Scott Oberg and David Dahl are going to be owed pay raises in arbitration. They obviously have a lot of holes on the team that need to be filled.

Still, it’s a bit galling for a team that draws as well as the Rockies do and which, again, signed a big TV deal yesterday, to say “sorry, you’re gonna get a bad product for a while, folks, because we have chosen to set our payroll at a an arbitrary level that forecloses the possibility of us improving the team.”

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?