By JED WEISBERGER
Earlier this week, the Major League Baseball Players Association, otherwise known as the Players Association, filed a grievance against the Pittsburgh Pirates, Oakland Athletics, Tampa Bay Rays and Miami Marlins.
Tony Clark, the leader of the MLBPA, a great guy and someone who I have known since his Double-A Trenton Thunder season in 1994, and his people feel these four clubs, who receive revenue sharing, aren’t trying hard enough to win.
All are small-market teams that have significant challenges, but, at least in the cases of Pittsburgh and Oakland, the grievance, in our opinion, is unwarranted.
Let’s take a look at Pittsburgh’s case:
The Pirates’ payroll for 2018, as it stands now, is at $77,074,999 for 2018, which includes retained salaries of Andrew McCutchen ($2 million), Daniel Hudson ($1 million), Chris Stewart ($250,000) and Wade LeBlanc ($50,000), plus $3 million for Jung Ho Kang if he ever plays in MLB again.
Granted, Pirates owner Bob Nutting can afford to invest more in his team and, as someone who coveted the Bucs in the period when the free-agent era was just beginning, I do sympathize with the Pittsburgh fans who would like to see ownership change.
The grievance, which undoubtedly came out of MLBPA’s frustration with this season’s mediocre free-agent class attracting less-than-anticipated attention, makes reference to the Pirates who were the only MLB club that has not signed a free-agent.
We guess signing closer Felipe Rivero to a 4-year, $22 million extension doesn’t count, nor does trading for outfielder Corey Dickerson, who brought $5,95 million – plus Hudson’s remaining $1 million to the payroll.
Many pundits stated the Bucs needed to sign a free-agent. Who should the team have signed?
- Pitcher Lance Lynn, who allowed 31 homers in 2017 and will be 31 in May? Lynn is a bulldog but the Pirates, who have an excellent system and RHP Mitch Keller almost ready to join several solid young arms.
- First baseman Adam Lind, who inked a minor-league deal with the Yankees Friday? Not with a burgeoning star in Josh Bell, who had 26 homers, 90 RBIs and a .800 OPS in 2017.
Those two were the most-mentioned in the many accounts taking the Pirates to task for not signing a free-agent, even though neither fits with the team.
And others wrote they got nothing for either pitcher Gerrit Cole or McCutchen. They were condemned for not acquiring top Astros pitching prospect Forrest Whitley, who, incidentally, is serving a 50-game suspension for a violation of minor league baseball’s drug program.
Infielder Colin Moran may turn out to be a solid return for Cole, as could right-hander Joe Musgrove. As far as Cutch, who is 31 and in his walk year, Pittsburgh traded him at the right time. We’ll see if pitcher Kyle Crick and the others pan out.
Pittsburgh’s 2018 lineup will likely look like this: Jordy Mercer SS, Josh Harrison 2B, Gregory Polanco RF, Starling Marte CF, Josh Bell 1B, Corey Dickerson LF, Colin Moran 3B, Francisco Cervelli C and the pitcher. Certainly not the worst.
The starters will be Ivan Nova, Chad Kuhl, Trevor Williams, Jameson Taillon and Musgrove, with others such as Tyler Glasnow and Keller waiting in the wings. Consistency is needed here. The bullpen, led by Rivero, George Kontos and Michael Feliz, is not bad.
Nutting is a frustration who seems to not grasp what it takes and didn’t add on when the Bucs had their three-year postseason run a few years ago. But a grievance? Baloney.