What does Marlins’ situation mean for Uggla?
Major League Baseball and the players’ union are in agreement: The Marlins need to increase their payroll.
That was the gist of a rare joint news release from New York on Tuesday afternoon. The commissioner’s office and the union want the Marlins to reinvest more of their revenue sharing receipts into the on-field product.
Fair enough, right? The players want to get paid. The owners paying into the revenue-sharing system would like to know that they’re not simply emptying their coffers into the pocket of Marlins owner Jeffrey Loria.
And with a new ballpark on the way in 2012, it’s reasonable to expect that the team’s payroll will, in time, go up from the roughly $34 million it spent last year.
The Marlins, annually one of the lowest-spending clubs in the game, had their say in the announcement, too. Team president David Samson stated that the club never violated the terms of the collective bargaining agreement, adding that the Marlins “will always comply” with the pact.
In the Marlins’ defense, they are hardly the only team that takes in revenue sharing money yet keeps a conservative payroll. If the season started today, the Pirates, Padres and A’s would have payrolls of less than $40 million.
Tuesday’s announcement didn’t mandate any minimum payroll for Florida or stipulate any penalties. But it did state that the three parties had “extensive discussions” about the team’s finances. And the league office and union rarely volunteer such information for public consumption – particularly less than two years from the expiration of the current CBA.
At a time when some around the industry are expecting contentious labor talks to come — not to mention the whispers among agents about collusion — a joint statement about anything is somewhat surprising. MLB and the MLB Players’ Association didn’t say what they discovered in the Marlins’ books, so we are left to wonder if it was convincing, damning or both.
So, what does that mean for the near future? MLB and the union are going to keep their eyes on the Marlins’ bottom line over the next three years. Most immediately, the status of second baseman Dan Uggla promises to be a fascinating test case over the next few months.
Unless the Marlins have planned on a dramatic payroll increase for this year, they won’t be able to afford the slugger.
Florida has offered Uggla salary arbitration, knowing full well that he is likely to command a salary of more than $7 million. That’s a lot of cash for a team that must also cobble together enough money to pay star pitcher Josh Johnson.
The Marlins have been trying to trade Uggla for weeks — of course, in an effort to get younger, cheaper players. Thus far, they have found no takers.
Perhaps they will take him to spring training and hope that he impresses rival teams there. Maybe they will play him at third base and left field, in an effort to show scouts that he could be an everyday player at somewhere other than second base.
But what if he has a bad spring? Would the Marlins release Uggla near the end of camp, a move that would liberate them from most of his contract but bring nothing in return?
Even worse, what if he gets hurt while they’re trying to trade him? What then?
If the season began today, the Marlins’ payroll would be close to $50 million. Before Tuesday, it was widely assumed that the final figure would be much closer to the $34 million they spent last year.
Could Tuesday’s agreement compel the Marlins to alter their plans and spend more in 2010? Personally, I doubt it. But you don’t need to take my word for it. Just keep your eyes on Dan Uggla.