On Tuesday, news broke that the Major League Baseball Player’s Association chided the Marlins for not spending enough on major league payroll, invoking an heretofore ignored aspect of the Collective Bargaining Agreement struck between the players union and baseball owners in 2006.
In a quid pro quo for instituting the luxury tax that has essentially provided low-revenue baseball teams with money from the New York Yankees, the agreement includes the following provision:
A principal objective of the Revenue Sharing Plan is to promote the growth of the Game and the industry on an individual Club and on an aggregate basis. Accordingly, each Club shall use its revenue sharing receipts (from the Base Plan, the Central Fund Component and the Commissioner’s Discretionary Fund) in an effort to improve its performance on the field. (Article XXIV(B)(5)(a) – PDF)
Essentially, the MLBPA took the Marlins to task for the low payroll the club has had for years, despite a clear ability to continue contending. Below are the Opening Day payrolls for the 25-man roster (salaries plus pro-rated signing bonuses) as measured by Cot’s Contracts (this figure is misleading, as it doesn’t include major league salaries for the non-25 man rosters, those that might have been on the disabled list, those that joined the club after Opening Day, amongst other considerations, but it remains a good barometer):
Except for 2007, when Florida finished a titillating 29th, those payrolls have been the lowest in baseball. Annual roster purging and the occasional fire sale have become commonplace in town, although that might change once the team is renamed the Miami Marlins in 2012, after the new stadium is built.
That wasn’t enough for the MLPA and new head Michael Weiner, however. They wanted results now.
It’s hard to fault Weiner and the players for growing concerned over the way the Marlins do business while pocketing at least $20 million in revenue sharing. However, remember this: the player’s union is concerned only with things that impact the livelihood of major league players. They couldn’t really care less if the Marlins are investing $60 million into their minor league development department, their scouting department, their international department… all that matters is major league payroll, because that’s where the players make their money.
I say this not to defend Florida: there have been numerous occasions over the past several years that I have been perturbed at their business decisions. I’m glad someone finally gave Florida a kick in the pants.
However, moving forward, it should be important to understand that it’s not just major league payroll that drains a team’s resources. In some cases, it would be prudent to avoid spending on major league payroll.
Take the Kansas City Royals, for example. Without regard to whether or not the Jason Kendall signing was motivated, in part, by this clause, would you rather give Jason Kendall a two-year contract at $6 million (true story) or put the money towards an international free agent like Aroldis Chapman or a high-impact amateur draft player that fell into later rounds due to signing bonus demands?
I hope that in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, this clause will be adjusted to reflect that spending to improve the quality of a baseball team isn’t tied directly to increasing the major league payroll. Good luck convincing the MLBPA of that, though.