Do you ever get the feeling that journalists, from media outlets like CNN, have a genuine desire to report on a range of newsworthy topics besides Donald Trump’s middle of the night tweets? In kind, I truly desire to write about Rays relevant topics, other than Principal Owner Stu Sternberg’s payroll fumbling or the Stadium Saga, yet fate continues to drag me back into the fray. And while Nathan Eovaldi was impressive in his spring debut on Tuesday, his performance was overshadowed by news that the MLBPA filed a formal grievance against the Rays, the Marlins, the Pirates, and the Athletics. Shiny things be damned, I’m bound and determined to write about both, not just one or the other!
MLBPA filed a formal grievance against the Rays, the Marlins, the Pirates, and the A’s
Marc Topkin (Tampa Bay Times) reported that on Friday, the Major League Baseball Players Association (MLBPA) filed a formal grievance against the Rays, the Marlins, the Pirates, and the Athletics, accusing the clubs of failing to comply with Major League Baseball’s rules regarding the spending of revenue-sharing proceeds.
According to the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), teams are required to spend revenue-sharing proceeds to improve its performance on the field — although there is wiggle room for spending it at the Minor League and scouting level to eventually improve the Major League club. Sternberg allegedly has exploited that wiggle room, which he acknowledged on Tuesday, saying:
We’re very judicious in how we spend our money, but it’s spent in a lot of forms, and payroll is one of them, Sternberg said. I think the payroll we have out here, and the players we have out here, we’re doing our jobs.
Yet before the first pitch is even thrown on Opening Day, the Rays will already have received approximately $130-million in revenue for the 2018 campaign, and future seasons.
The breakdown follows:
- $45 million in reported annual revenue sharing from MLB’s higher-spending teams.
- $35 million in the final year of its local TV deal. A new, 15-year deal is close to being signed, with the average payout rising to $82 million annually over the length of the deal, beginning in 2019.
- $50 million — at minimum — in a lump sum from the sale of MLB’s digital media company BAMTeach.
Instead of investing that money into the Opening Day roster, the Rays — under the payroll cutting directive of Sternberg — traded away the face of the franchise, Evan Longoria, as well as Steven Souza Jr. (2017 team MVP); designated Corey Dickerson for assignment (2017 All-Star), then traded him to Pittsburgh; dealt Jake Odorizzi to Minnesota for Dippin’ Dots, and essentially turned over half the 40-man roster since the end of last season. In effect, Tampa Bay no longer has seven of 2017’s best 12 players by WAR.
True, the Rays were projected for a W/L record of 84-78 (by way of PECOTA) prior to dumping Dickerson, Odorizzi and Souza, and there really hasn’t been a dramatic change in those projections since. However, the cost cutting measures are tantamount to a series of lateral moves that neither improved, nor weakened, the 2018 roster.
In the words of Barry Petchesky (DeadSpin), this is indicative of a team trying to cobble together a team on the cheap.
This is not a team that’s trying to win. Which, under certain circumstances and for isolated periods of time, is fine. But this is also not a team that’s trying to spend any money. That, from the point of view of the Players’ Union, is not OK.
For his part, Sternberg said the projected 2018 $73-million Opening Day payroll figure will be up over last season, which is close to their highest ever, and team will be very competitive. Yet that figure is higher because the team took on payroll when Denard Span, who is slated to earn $13-million in 2018, was acquired from San Francisco in the Longoria trade. Forget not, Tampa Bay also sent a little more than $10-million to San Francisco in the deal. To put it differently, had Span been dealt instead of Dickerson, the Opening Day payroll would be significantly under that of the 2017 Opening Day figure.
In other words, Sternberg did increase the payroll, however, he did so unintentionally — not because his goal was to improve the on field product. If I may, it sure sounds like Sternberg, by way of his public statements, is taking umbrage to the grievance filed by the player’s union over the team’s revenue sharing spending.
Rays player representative, Chris Archer, is aware of the grievance, and levied similar criticisms:
I think the biggest concern is the discrepancy between the teams at the top, how much they’re spending, the teams in the middle, and there’s six teams or so that are spending under $90- or so million, though that could change, Archer said.
But there’s such a huge discrepancy. … From the outside looking in, it looks like some teams are using it on their major-league club and some teams aren’t.
It’s easy to know how much payroll we have, but where that comes from, I just throw the ball,” he said. “I have no clue what it costs to run the Dominican academy. I know just from my perspective, not a whole lot has changed with the spring training facility, not a whole lot has changed at the Trop, and our payroll has not increased significantly.
But that’s just one side of it, I don’t know where else they are also investing, and they may be.
Major League Baseball, unsurprisingly, believes there is no merit to the grievance, responding with a statement to the Times:
We have received the grievance and believe it has no merit.
The criticism comes just month after the MLBPA “raised concerns” with the commissioner about the Marlins and Pirates stripping their rosters and slicing payroll. Yet Major League Baseball appears to be willing to fight this one, so it will likely head to an arbitrator.
According to Petchesky, the last time a grievance like this was filed, in 2010, MLB leaned on the Marlins, who agreed to raise payroll for a brief time and to share financials with the union. It should be noted: when pressed by Noah Pransky (Shadow of the Stadium, WTSP News) about whether he would open the books and share his financials, Sternberg smiled and said, “no thank you.”
I wrote yesterday that the Rays did not want the financial numbers associated with their pending television contract extension to go public for one reason: it would reduce the team’s leverage in stadium discussions by making the case for public subsidies even harder. Similarly speaking, opening the books would shine a light on the owner’s misapplication of revenue sharing proceeds while he simultaneously cries financial foul — the core tenet of the team’s need for a new stadium. The MLBPA’s grievance will do the Rays no favor as they seek public subsidies for a new facility.
Nathan Eovaldi sharp in his first spring outing
Nathan Eovaldi was “definitely excited” to face big-league hitters prior to taking the mound on Tuesday for the first time since August 10, 2016, before he underwent his second Tommy John surgery. Fast forward a few hours later to his first outing in a Rays uniform.
Eovaldi pumped in a 98 mile per hour first pitch fastball and never looked back. The right-hander retired all four of the batters he faced, striking out two while not allowing a ball to be hit out of the infield. Eovaldi threw 11 of 14 pitches for strikes, and his fastball sat between 97 and 98 mph.
I was amped up, I was excited to be back out there, Eovaldi said. It felt good to be back.
Eovaldi was also pleased with his splitter, yet not so much with the slider and curveball he plans to incorporate more often. You can hear his post-game comments below in their entirety (Courtesy of Rays Radio).
Eovaldi is expected to play a big role in the starting rotation now that Brent Honeywell has undergone Tommy John surgery for a partially torn UCL which he suffered a little less than a week ago.