The Major League Baseball Players Association has filed a grievance with MLB about the Miami Marlins, Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays and Oakland A’s not spending enough money from revenue sharing.
As first reported by the Tampa Bay Times and independently confirmed by the Miami Herald, the complaint covers the 2017 season and the current offseason.
“We have received the complaint and believe it has no merit,” MLB said in a statement to the Miami Herald.
Teams are required to spend their revenue-sharing money to improve the on-field product, according to the MLB collective bargaining agreement. However, that doesn't solely restrict teams to spending that money on their major-league payroll.
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While the MLB does not release revenue sharing figures, a summer of 2017 version of new Marlins co-owner and CEO Derek Jeter’s business plan, Project Wolverine — shared with the Miami Herald in December — showed the Marlins were projected to make $110 million from Major League Baseball last season between the national TV contract and its revenue sharing payout, with about $60 million of that from revenue sharing. Meanwhile, every big league team will receive a one-time payout of $50 million this spring because of MLB’s sale of its digital arm to Disney.
This means that the Marlins stand to receive about $160 million from MLB in 2018 if this year’s revenue sharing and national TV payouts are similar to last year. And that is before the team's local revenue, such as tickets sales and sponsorship, is factored in.
Under the direction of new owners Bruce Sherman and Jeter, the Marlins have traded four of the team’s top players from its roster in Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich in an attempt to slash the team’s payroll. Even that that, though, the Marlins are still tracking toward their third-highest Opening Day payroll in franchise history at about $95 million. Last year’s Opening Day payroll of $115 million was highest in team history.
"As we have done since the day we took over in October, we will continue to do everything we can to build a foundation for sustained success and improve this organization — which has not made the postseason since 2003 and has gone eight seasons without a winning record,” Jeter said in a statement.
The players union notified the commissioner’s office in January to voice concerns regarding how the the Marlins and Pirates were not redirecting enough of their revenue sharing money toward player payroll.
“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,” former players union spokesman Greg Bouris told the Miami Herald at the time. “We are waiting to have further dialogue and that will dictate our next steps.”
At the time of the players union’s contact with the commissioner’s office, MLB responded with the following statement: “We do not have concerns about the Pirates’ and Marlins’ compliance with the Basic Agreement provisions regarding the use of revenue sharing proceeds. 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.”
This is the second time union has filed a grievance against the Marlins, with the first coming in 2008. The team reached an agreement with MLB and the union to what amounted to a stern warning.