The Reds announced on Wednesday the acquisition of pitcher José De León from the Rays in exchange for a player to be named later and cash. The Rays opened up a spot on the 40-man roster with the move, ahead of Wednesday’s 8 PM ET deadline in preparation for the Rule 5 draft.
De León, 27, was once a highly-regarded prospect in the Dodgers’ organization, peaking at No. 23 overall in baseball per Baseball America in 2016. The Dodgers traded him to the Rays in January 2017 in exchange for Logan Forsythe.
Due to injuries, De León has only logged 23 2/3 innings in the majors since debuting in 2016. He was solid this past season, posting a 3.51 ERA in 51 1/3 innings across 13 starts and four relief appearances for Triple-A Durham. De León is certainly a solid buy-low gamble for the Reds as he could contribute throughout the 2020 season.
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?