NEW YORK — Concerned after the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates cut major league payroll, the Major League Baseball Players Association has taken the first step toward trying to force changes in the clubs’ behavior.
The union said it expressed concern to Major League Baseball that the teams are not spending revenue-sharing proceeds to improve play. The commissioner’s office responded by saying it is not worried about any violations.
Both teams are in the midst of rebuilds. The Marlins dealt major league home run champion Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, Dee Gordon and Christian Yelich for prospects since new chief executive Derek Jeter’s ownership group bought the team in October, and the Pirates traded longtime franchise face Andrew McCutchen and ace pitcher Gerrit Cole.
Baseball’s collective bargaining agreement states “each club shall use its revenue sharing receipts … in an effort to improve its performance on the field” and prohibits use of that money to service debt related to franchise acquisition and to debt not related to improving on-field performance.
“We have raised our concerns regarding both Miami and Pittsburgh with the commissioner, as is the protocol under the collective bargaining agreement and its revenue sharing provisions,” union spokesman Greg Bouris said in a statement Friday. “We are waiting to have further dialogue, and that will dictate our next steps.”
Miami finished with a team-record $117 million payroll for its 40-man roster last year, 20th among the 30 teams and up from $81 million in 2016 and a big league low $63 million in 2016.
Pittsburgh was at $96 million, down from a club-record $100 million in 2016.
“We do not have concerns about the Pirates’ and Marlins’ compliance with the basic agreement provisions regarding the use of revenue sharing proceeds,” MLB said in a statement, “The Pirates have steadily increased their payroll over the years while at the same time decreasing their revenue sharing. 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 union has not informed us that it intends to file a grievance against either team.”
Pirates president Frank Coonelly defended his team’s spending.
“While our revenue sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons, our major league payroll more than doubled over that same period,” he said in a statement. “Our revenue sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on major league payroll, let alone all of the other dollars that we spend on scouting, player development and other baseball investments, several areas in which we are among the league leaders in spending.”
The players’ association expressed concern about the Marlins and the revenue-sharing provision a decade ago. While the Marlins denied any violations, the team, the union and Major League Baseball announced in January 2010 an agreement covering three seasons. The Marlins raised their 40-man payroll from $38 million in 2009 to $47 million in 2010 to $62 million in 2011 to $90 million in 2012, the year Marlins Park opened. Miami cut back to $42 million in 2013.
Marlins spokesman Jason Latimer did not respond to a request for comment.