The Miami Marlins, after an offseason of shedding payroll obligations and trading away several of their best and highest-paid players, were among four teams accused of not spending revenue-sharing money as intended.
The Major League Baseball Players Association, in a grievance filed Friday against the Marlins, Oakland Athletics, Pittsburgh Pirates and Tampa Bay Rays, cited guidelines in the collective bargaining agreement requiring “each club shall use its revenue-sharing receipts … in an effort to improve its performance on the field.”
The union has been concerned about a depressed market for free agents throughout the offseason, leading to numerous prominent free agents remaining unsigned into the third week of spring training.
“We have received the complaint and believe it has no merit,” Major League Baseball said in a statement.
The new Marlins ownership group headed by principal owner Bruce Sherman and CEO Derek Jeter has dealt away Giancarlo Stanton, Dee Gordon, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich in a series of cost-cutting moves that have restocked a depleted farm system with some promising prospects, including several currently vying for spots in the starting rotation and lineup.
Last year, in the final season under previous owner Jeffrey Loria, the Marlins had a franchise-record Opening Day payroll of $115 million.
Even without the four departed stars, who will earn about $52 million combined this season, the Marlins still are tracking for a $95 million payroll, which would be third-largest in franchise history to begin a season. That is well above the totals of the other three teams named in the grievance.
“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,” Marlins CEO Derek Jeter said in a statement.
The team has signed one free agent, with veteran outfielder Cameron Maybin agreeing to a one-year deal worth $3.25 million last week.
The union had expressed concerns in January to the commissioner’s office about the trades made by the Marlins and Pirates, who are also in rebuilding mode and dealt away two of their best players, pitcher Gerrit Cole and outfielder Andrew McCutchen.
The commissioner’s office responded at them time with a 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 also objected to the Marlins’ use of revenue-sharing funds in 2010. To avoid a grievance, the club agreed to allow the league and union to monitor their finances for the next three years. Soon after that they signed pitcher Josh Johnson to a four-year, $39 million contract.