The minimum salary in the new collective-bargaining agreement increased from $414,000 to $480,000, giving even the lowest-paid players a handsome wage.
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Baseball’s economic system, however, allows clubs to otherwise determine the salaries of players in the 0-to-3-year service class almost unilaterally.
The Miami Marlins, a team that spent lavishly on free agents this past offseason, are taking a particularly firm stand with those players, according to major-league sources.
The Marlins intend to automatically “renew” the contracts of virtually all their 0-to-3s at the new minimum, a move that might prompt the players’ union to file a grievance, contending that the team did not operate in good faith, sources say.
The union lost a similar grievance involving the Chicago White Sox in the 1980s. The amount of money at stake for each player is in the thousands, not millions.
But the Marlins, if they remain unyielding, would risk angering their most accomplished 0-to-3s – players such as All-Star first baseman Gaby Sanchez, right fielder Mike Stanton and left fielder Logan Morrison.
The players say that there should be “appropriate spacing” between a two-year veteran such as Sanchez and a player with less than one year of service and has barely worn a major-league uniform.
The danger in angering such players is that they might become more eager to take the Marlins to a salary arbitration hearing after they qualify for the process with three years of service.
“That’s one of the main reasons I went to a hearing against them in my second year of arb,” said Boston Red Sox outfielder Cody Ross, who beat the Marlins in arbitration in 2010, receiving $4.45 million after the team offered $4.2 million.
“I never forgot about them not giving me a raise ever as a 0-to-3 player. I didn’t think it was fair for me to make the same as a guy who comes up from minor league camp and makes the team.”
Thus, the long-term costs of treating all 0-to-3 players the same might outweight the benefits of the minimal savings.
The Marlins recently lost arbitration cases to right-hander Anibal Sanchez and infielder Emilio Bonifacio. They are 3-7 all-time in the process and 1-5 since 2007, according to the South Florida Sun-Sentinel.
With 0-to-3s, the Marlins use the same type of scale as most clubs, rewarding those who contribute most. But according to sources, they are starting the scale with the old minimum rather than the new, reasoning that players will jump at least $66,000 anyway.
If the scale determines that a player merits a jump from the old minimum of $414,000 to say, $460,000, the Marlins will simply pay him the new minimum of $480,000, sources say.
No 0-to-3 player in the majors is likely to earn more than $510,000-$520,000, according to one rival executive. But other clubs are more flexible than the Marlins in awarding raises above the minimum, sources say.
The Marlins have nine players with at least one or two years of service, according to Cots’ Baseball Contracts.
Besides Sanchez, Stanton and Morrison, the list includes left-hander Wade LeBlanc, catcher Brett Hayes, outfielders Chris Coghlan, Scott Cousins and Bryan Petersen and relievers Mike Dunn and Ryan Webb.