Barry Jackson

MLB players union complains to commissioner about Miami Marlins’ payroll slashing

In the wake of another round of payroll slashing by the Miami Marlins, the Major League Baseball player’s association has contacted the commissioner’s office to voice concerns about how the franchise is operating new under owners Bruce Sherman and Derek Jeter, a union spokesman said Friday.

Yahoo’s Jeff Passan reported earlier Friday that the players association has been considering whether it should go to the commissioner’s office to complain about the Marlins not redirecting enough of their revenue sharing money toward player payroll. A source had also told the Miami Herald that in recent days.

The players union has now taken the next step, reaching out to MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred and his staff to express those concerns about both the Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates, who have each traded several high-profile players this offseason.

“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,” players union spokesman Greg Bouris told the Miami Herald. “We are waiting to have further dialogue and that will dictate our next steps.”

A summer of 2017 version of Jeter’s business plan, Project Wolverine — shared with the Miami Herald last month — showed the Marlins last season were projected to make $110 million from Major League Baseball between the national TV contract and its revenue sharing payout, with about $60 million of that from revenue sharing.

MLB does not release revenue sharing figures.

Meanwhile, every big league team is getting a one-time payout of $50 million this spring because of MLB’s sale of its digital arm to Disney.

If this year’s revenue sharing and national TV payouts are similar to last year’s, that means the Marlins stand to pocket about $160 million from MLB in 2018 before any of its local revenue, such as tickets sales and sponsorship, is even factored in.

The Marlins’ current payroll projection for the 2018 season stands at $97 million, and during the approval process, Sherman and Jeter told other owners that they projected a payroll of $90 million.

The Marlins’ 2018 payroll would have been about $140 million if they had kept last year’s roster but not added any new players.

But the Marlins traded Giancarlo Stanton (who was due to make $25 million this coming season), Marcell Ozuna ($9 million), Dee Gordon ($10.5 million) and Christian Yelich ($7 million).

The only big-league player acquired in any of those deals was second baseman Starlin Castro, who’s due $10 million this season and $11 million in 2019. He has asked to be traded, according to a source.

In 2010, the Marlins were forced to spend more than they had planned after the players union complained to MLB about the team not allocating enough of its revenue sharing money on player payroll.

Michael Weiner, the executive director of the Major League Baseball Players Association at the time (he died in 2013), said at the time: “In response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required, the Marlins have assured the union and the commissioner’s office that they plan to use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark.” 

Soon after, the Marlins and pitcher Josh Johnson agreed to a four-year, $39 million contract.

Jeter’s decision to slash payroll is not a surprise to Manfred or other owners, according to multiple sources with direct knowledge.

Jeter and Sherman told them they intended to do so during the application process to buy the team.

Revenue sharing is aimed at redirecting money from the high revenue to low revenue teams, but some high revenue teams historically have griped when the biggest recipients of revenue sharing pocket that money instead of spending it.

According to the August version of Project Wolverine shared with the Miami Herald, Jeter projected Marlins profits of $68 million in 2018, $10 million in 2019, $15.8 million in 2020 and $22 million in 2021.

Those profits are based on highly ambitious projections for attendance, sponsorship and local broadcast revenue.

Also, that document revealed that Jeter is paying himself $5 million annually as CEO and will give himself an annual bonus if the team makes a profit.

Those bonus payments: $2 million in 2018, $1.7 million in 2019, $1.1 million in 2020, $2 million in 2021 and $2 million in 2022.

One big-league owner said Jeter’s salary - and bonus structure - is on the high side for any big-league owner, even one immersed in day-to-day operations as Jeter is.

But then again, “he’s Derek Jeter,” the owner said. 

The Marlins declined to comment on the union going to the commissioner’s office to express its concerns.

The union also is voicing concerns about the Pirates after they traded standout players Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.

But MLB said Friday that the Marlins are projected to lose money in 2018 and MLB does not have concerns about the Marlins or Pirates on the revenue sharing issue.

"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."