MLBPA files second grievance against Pirates over lack of spending

The Pittsburgh Pirates are projected to have the lowest Opening Day payroll in Major League Baseball, at about $57 million per Cot’s Contracts. Part of the reason the Pirates are in that position is because they punted on the free-agent market, dipping in their toes only to sign downmarket players like Jarrod Dyson, Luke Maile, JT Riddle, and Guillermo Heredia — a group that will make, in whole, about $4 million for the 2020 season. (Derek Holland was added on a minor-league deal.)

All of this is notable because it comes even after the players union has filed grievances against the Pirates and their application of revenue-sharing funds in each of the last two years, according to Rob Biertempfel of The Athletic. Biertempfel notes that no hearing has been scheduled for either grievance.

The union’s contention is that the collective bargaining agreement requires teams to use revenue-sharing money to improve their on-the-field product. If the Pirates have complied, it hasn’t been by spending at the big-league level. Pittsburgh’s payroll has dipped by nearly $20 million over the last year, and has declined in each of the last four seasons. 

Teams are technically allowed to use those funds in other ways, such as hiring staff and purchasing technology. They can also use them in the draft or on the international free-agent front, although those opportunities are more limited now by bonus pools and caps. The Pirates’ exact revenue sharing payout is unknown, but leaked financial documents a decade ago revealed the Pirates were making a sizable profit despite their wretched product. 

The Pirates (who changed management this winter, hiring former Boston Red Sox GM Ben Cherington to run the show) are reportedly considering extending several of their young big-league players, including outfielder Bryan Reynolds, shortstop Kevin Newman, and starter Joe Musgrove. None of those deals would likely have a major impact on the 2020 payroll. In other words, expect the union to file another grievance against the Pirates next spring.

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