MLB Players file grievance against 4 teams


The Major League Baseball Players Association isn’t happy with the number of talented free agents who are still unsigned a week after the start of spring training. And now it’s letting its anger show.

The union has taken out its frustration out against four teams — the Tampa Bay Rays, Florida Marlins, Oakland Athletics and Pittsburgh Pirates — by filing a grievance against the clubs, claiming the teams are violating the terms of how money received from revenue sharing is spent.

News of the grievance was first reported Tuesday by Marc Topkins of the Tampa Bay Times.

The union’s complaint covers the 2017 season and the current offseason.

“Hopefully, we’ll get to the bottom of it,” Blue Jays pitcher J.A. Happ told USA Today. “It’s been disappointing to see how the off-season has played out for a lot of guys. There’s a lot of really, really good players who can help a lot of teams that are unsigned still.

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“You always wonder why that is.”

Union spokesman Chris Dahl confirmed that a grievance had been filed Friday, but offered no other details.

“We have received the complaint and believe it has no merit,” MLB said of the grievance in a statement to the Miami Herald.

According to the collective bargaining agreement between MLB and its players union, revenue sharing funds — where a certain percentage of monies from the highest-grossing teams are shared with the league’s lowest-grossing clubs — are supposed to used “to improve the product on the field.” That does not mean the money can only be used on salaries. It can be invested in developing better talent in the minor leagues, for instance.

Does the MLBPA have a valid complaint against these four teams?

The Marlins have particularly raised the ire of the union, trading big-name stars such as Giancarlo Stanton, Marcel Ozuna and Christian Yelich this offseason. The team has a projected payroll of about $95 million for the year, but stands to receive more than $60 million from revenue sharing, in addition to approximately $50 million from national TV money and another $50 million from MLB’s sale of its advanced media business to Disney.

The MLBPA lodged a formal complaint with the commissioner’s office in January about the cost-cutting measures being taken by the Marlins. At the time, MLB said it was not concerned by the Marlins’ actions during the offseason.

“The Marlins’ ownership purchased a team that incurred substantial financial losses the prior two seasons, and even with revenue sharing and significant expense reduction, the team is projected to lose money in 2018,” the league said in a statement.

Stuart Sternberg, principal owner of the Rays — who have one of the lowest payrolls in baseball — said he was “genuinely surprised” that the grievance was filed and that the Rays were “beyond what compliance is” with the rules.

“We’ve run our organization in a very open, transparent fashion since the day I’ve come in and try to prepare people for what we’re doing,” Sternberg told the Times. “I don’t know what happens from here. It’s uncharted territory for me, and I would imagine the other teams as well. But if it wants to be explored, or needs to be explored, I don’t get it. How’s that?”

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Frank Coonelly, president of Pirates, said the union’s grievance was without merit. His team will have a payroll of about $75 million this season.

“The MLBPA’s grievance against the Pirates is patently baseless,” Coonelly said in a statement. “We look forward to demonstrating as much to the arbitrator if the MLBPA continues to pursue this meritless claim.

“It is regrettable that the MLBPA would react to a free agent market that is apparently not to its liking by filing a frivolous grievance against a club that has continued to invest heavily in all areas of its baseball operations, notwithstanding steadily diminishing revenue sharing receipts.”

Representatives of the Oakland A’s had yet to release a statement as of midday Tuesday, but other owners have already cut what the team receives from revenue sharing.

According to a 2016 report from the San Francisco Chronicle, other MLB owners believe the A’s weren’t making a strong effort to find a replacement for its antiquated stadium, so the team’s revenue-sharing checks are being phased out entirely over a four-year span. The team’s revenue-sharing check this season is expected to be around $20 million. The team’s expected payroll is around $63 million, one of the lowest in baseball.

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Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. A native of Milwaukee, he currently resides in Phoenix.
Scott Kelnhofer is a writer for The Western Journal and Conservative Tribune. He has more than 20 years of experience in print and broadcast journalism. A native of Milwaukee, he has resided in Phoenix since 2012.
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