Monday Morning Mop-Up: labor strife ahead? And how to stretch $10 million


SOUTH HILLS – Some analysts believe the Alex Rodriguez decision could be precursor of labor strife to come. Some see the case as the sign of a weakened union, which has had a change in leadership, and foresee owners trying to take advantage writes FOX”s Ken Rosenthal:


While serious talks are likely more than two years away, sources say that the union already is preparing for management to pursue an aggressive, ambitious strategy, seeking concessions on everything from the Joint Drug Agreement to the game’s salary structure.


The players, to be sure, are more vulnerable than in the past — and both sides know it.


The union is under new, less experienced leadership. The owners could try to take advantage if the players show increased flexibility on drug testing. Management also has negotiated restrictions on domestic and international amateurs and a cap on the posting fees for Japanese players, and no doubt is eyeing the final frontier – major league salaries.


Rodriguez said in a statement he believes baseball will target guaranteed contracts.


Still, what few seem to be talking about is that owners are becoming richer than ever. Consider players’ share of baseball revenues was 62 percent in 2003. It’s fallen to below 50 percent. So perhaps it is the players that should perhaps be the party bringing more grievances to the table. While players might not want to talk salary cap to insure a split of revenues, I’d bet players and agents would like to see each team have a spending floor and other vehicles to promote spending. While the public is going to have little sympathy in battle between billionaires and millionaires there are some growing divides between the two parties.


This is what Scott Boras told me back in October:  “You have owners’ revenues that are skyrocketing. It’s not 50-50 anymore. It’s well below that. I think the union has to take great notice of that. That’s something we got away from in the last agreement. I think in the upcoming collective bargaining process that really has to be paid attention to.”


While I’m not sure if 21 consecutive years of labor peace will be threatened after the 2016 season, in two years we could witness the most contentious talks in more than two decades.


Putting ARod’s legal issues and what it might or might not signal for baseball going forward aside for a moment, his fall has to be one of the most stunning in the sport’s history. He was described as a an elite defensive player with Juan Gonzalez-like power before being selected first overall in the 1993 draft. He turned into Mike Trout before Mike Trout, only Mike Trout at shortstop. He became the richest player in the game’s history, a candidate to be its all-time home run king…. and now this is how he’s featured on the cover of N.Y. Post.




9. Back to the Pirates …


The Pirates are still  apparently waiting  on A.J. Burnett, and perhaps the Orioles and Phillies are in the mix, too. That suggests the Pirates have, say, $10 million to spend in 2014. But because the market might be beginning to present some other opportunities, perhaps it’s time for the Pirates to think about using their Burnett allowance elsewhere.


8.  To me, the most intriguing remaining free agent is Stephen Drew. Signing Drew to, say, a  two-year $20 million deal would greatly improve platoon advantages and depth in the infield. As I wrote last week,the Pirates were willing to go to around $7 million per year on James Loney, it’s the years that were the issue. So perhaps it’s not so far fetched that Drew could be in play.


7.  I also wonder if they price has come down considerably on either Ubaldo Jiminez, Matt Garza or Ervin Santana. I think the market is still waiting on Tanaka and after that domino falls, the Scarlet Q (Qualifying offer) Trio of starting pitchers will sign. But if one remains on the board entering February, the Pirates could be in position to find value. Remember, Neal Huntington said he was going to let the market play out early in the offseason, and in the baseball offseason the market can take a long time to play out. There could be some February value on the board like Michael Bourn, last offseason.


6. Kendrys Morales also remains available … but that defense and hat redundancy created with Gaby Sanchez‘s able bat against left-handed pitching.


5. The other options would be more of the bargain-bin variety. The Pirates are among number of teams to check in on Johan Santana. Another interesting lefty available is Chris Capuano. And Lance Berkman, is another player the Pirates checked in on earlier this offseason. …  You can never have too many starting pitching options and consider 40 percent of the Pirates’ rotation is comprised of question marks in Wandy Rodriguez and Edinson Volquez.


4. The other option is the Pirates are done spending for the offseason.


3. Can’t get Tanaka? Interesting research from reader Jim Wirtz on five former Pirates playing in Japan and their 2013 numbers:


Nyjer Morgan (Yokohama BayStars): 424 PA, .294 BA, 11 HR
Akinori Iwamura (Yakult Swallows): 159 PA, .246 BA, 3 HR, 48 K
Lastings Milledge (Yakult Swallows): 423 PA, .251 BA, 16 HR
Brad  Eldred (Hiroshima Carp): 260 PA, .247 BA, 13 HR, 73 K
Bryan Bullington (Hiroshima Carp): 172.2 IP, 11-9, 3.23 ERA


2. Moving away from the Pirates for a minute ….


Want to eliminate the lose-at-all-cost-to-land-a-premium-draft-pick approaches by teams like the Astros, Colts of the NFL (in 2011) and about one team every year in the NBA? The NBA has  an interesting proposal


Grantland obtained a copy of the proposal, which would eliminate the draft lottery and replace it with a system in which each of the 30 teams would pick in a specific first-round draft slot once — and exactly once — every 30 years. Each team would simply cycle through the 30 draft slots, year by year, in a predetermined order designed so that teams pick in different areas of the draft each year. Teams would know with 100 percent certainty in which draft slots they would pick every year, up to 30 years out from the start of every 30-year cycle. The practice of protecting picks would disappear; there would never be a Harrison Barnes–Golden State situation again, and it wouldn’t require a law degree to track ownership of every traded pick leaguewide.


I’m favor of keeping most draft systems as they are: vehicles designed to promote parity. And in a sport without a salary cap like baseball I think salary caps are particularly important. But there seems to be more of a willingness by clubs to tank for draft position.


 1.  Teams are finding ways around revenue sharing in their new TV deals reports Matt Gelb of the Philadelphia Inquirer


The rights fee is the only part of these TV deals subject to Major League Baseball’s revenue-sharing. The Phillies must send 34 percent of the rights fee to MLB’s revenue-sharing pool. Thus, teams making these deals find profit in other areas, like an equity stake in the network and a share of advertising revenue. Those aspects of the Phillies deal could be worth billions more. …


“Having a percent ownership in the entity prevents them from exposure to revenue-sharing rules,” Scott Boras said, “which hurts other teams in the league from receiving the true payment.”



Don’t worry, just because the iconic Pirates’ ‘P’ is the club’s new primary logo, it doesn’t mean the Jolly Roger is walking the plank:

“The perception we have dropped the Jolly Roger is not true,” team spokesman Brian Warecki said in a news release issued Thursday. “The only change our fans will notice is that we will no longer be using the ‘Pirates’ lettering above the Jolly Roger.”




Edinson Volquez to our own Rob Biertempfel.


“When San Diego put me on waivers (last year), the Pirates called right away. This winter, they called again. I thought, ‘They must really want me, so let’s do it.’  .. “What I hear about the Pirates pitching coaches and the pitching staff is pretty good,” Volquez said. “So, why not take a chance to come here and maybe get better?”




I really like the James Franklin hire for Penn State. If you can be competitive at Vanderbilt in the SEC, even a down SEC East, you can coach.




Dabo Swinney  on your favorite blogger (start at the 1:45 mark)