Why the MLBPA is looking into the Pirates' and Marlins' spending habits

The Major League Baseball Players Association is investigating whether to file grievances against the Miami Marlins and Pittsburgh Pirates for circumventing rules in the collective-bargaining agreement that call for teams to put revenue-sharing dollars back into baseball operations, sources familiar with the situation told Yahoo Sports.

An offseason in which both teams have dumped star players piqued the interest of the players’ union, particularly as both teams receive in excess of $50 million from the program that redistributes money from higher-revenue to lower-revenue teams. The union has targeted both teams in the past, coming to an agreement with the Marlins to increase spending in 2010 and looking into the Pirates’ spending habits.

The potential grievances come during an offseason in which a frozen free-agent market has left players confused and emboldened teams to dig in and seek bargains. Neither the Marlins nor the Pirates have bothered to participate, not signing one major league free agent with spring training less than three weeks away.

The process to go from investigating a grievance to filing one is long, and with the Marlins’ current payroll in the $87 million range and the Pirates’ near $84 million, it could prove a difficult case to make. Nonetheless, the union’s power under the collective-bargaining agreement to serve as a watchdog on teams potentially pocketing revenue-sharing dollars or using them to buy down debt is important to help protect not just the players from having money shielded but showing good faith to the larger-market teams that distribute the money.

The CBA says “each Club shall use its revenue sharing receipts … in an effort to improve its performance on the field.” Each team files an annual financial-outlay document that includes its payroll, expenses from player development, revenue and other metrics. Should the union and MLB find issue with a team’s financials, commissioner Rob Manfred can penalize the team or, as was the case with the Marlins, impel it to spend.

The Marlins’ history does not help their case, as a team’s historical use of revenue-sharing money can be held against it. At the same time, the severe debt that new Marlins ownership is trying to mitigate can play into the parties’ thinking as well, according to the CBA. Miami has dealt star outfielders Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna and Christian Yelich this winter in addition to All-Star second baseman Dee Gordon.

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Giancarlo Stanton through his career
JUPITER, FL - MARCH 01: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins runs during a workout at Roger Dean Stadium on March l, 2012 in Jupiter, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
MIAMI, FL - APRIL 14: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the Miami Marlins looks on prior to a MLB game against the Houston Astros at Marlins Park on April 14, 2012 in Miami, Florida. (Photo by Ronald C. Modra/Sports Imagery/Getty Images)
May 2, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) breaks his bat after connecting for an RBI single during the seventh inning against the Los Angeles Dodgers at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) of the Miami Marlins hits a home run in the first round during the 2014 Home Run Derby the day before the MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jesse Johnson-USA TODAY Sports
May 4, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) is unable to field a double from Los Angeles Dodgers center fielder Andre Ethier (not pictured) during the ninth inning at Marlins Ballpark. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 14, 2014; Minneapolis, MN, USA; National League outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) of the Miami Marlins reacts as he bats in the first round during the 2014 Home Run Derby the day before the MLB All Star Game at Target Field. Mandatory Credit: Jeff Curry-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2014; Anaheim, CA, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) celebrates with teammates after hitting a three-run home run during the fourth inning against the Los Angeles Angels at Angel Stadium of Anaheim. Mandatory Credit: Richard Mackson-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 11, 2014; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) is carted off the field after getting hit by a pitch in the fifth inning against the Milwaukee Brewers at Miller Park. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports
Nov 19, 2014; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton smiles during a press conference at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2014; San Francisco, CA, USA; Miami Marlins outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (middle) waves to the crowd as he is awarded the Hank Aaron Award by newly elected commissioner Rob Manfred (left) and Hank Aaron before game four of the 2014 World Series between the San Francisco Giants and the Kansas City Royals at AT&T Park. Mandatory Credit: Ed Szczepanski-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 29, 2015; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home run during the first inning against the New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 11, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; National League outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) of the Miami Marlins reacts as he bats in the quarterfinals during the All Star Game home run derby at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 11, 2016; San Diego, CA, USA; National League outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) of the Miami Marlins holds the trophy after winning the All Star Game home run derby at PetCo Park. Mandatory Credit: Jake Roth-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 20, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) is unable to make a catch off of Washington Nationals second baseman Stephen Drew (not pictured) during the first inning at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Sep 27, 2016; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) is seen wearing Marlins starting pitcher Jose Fernandez number on his jersey while walking back to the dugout during the first inning against New York Mets at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Apr 19, 2017; Seattle, WA, USA; Miami Marlins designated hitter Giancarlo Stanton (27) celebrates his solo home run against the Seattle Mariners during the third inning at Safeco Field. Mandatory Credit: Joe Nicholson-USA TODAY Sports
Jul 10, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; National League outfielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) of the Miami Marlins during batting practice one day before the 2017 MLB All Star Game at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 10, 2017; Washington, DC, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) celebrates with Marlins second baseman Dee Gordon (9) after hitting a two-run home run in the third inning during a game against the Washington Nationals at Nationals Park. Mandatory Credit: Patrick McDermott-USA TODAY Sports
Aug 25, 2017; Miami, FL, USA; Miami Marlins right fielder Giancarlo Stanton (27) rounds the bases after hitting a two run home in the first inning against the San Diego Padres at Marlins Park. Mandatory Credit: Steve Mitchell-USA TODAY Sports
Oct 25, 2017; Los Angeles, CA, USA; From left Miami Marlins player Giancarlo Stanton , MLB commissioner Rob Manfred , Hank Aaron and Houston Astros second baseman Jose Altuve at the Hank Aaron Award press conference before game two of the 2017 World Series between the Los Angeles Dodgers and the Houston Astros at Dodger Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports
JIMMY KIMMEL LIVE - 'Jimmy Kimmel Live' airs every weeknight at 11:35 p.m. EST and features a diverse lineup of guests that include celebrities, athletes, musical acts, comedians and human interest subjects, along with comedy bits and a house band. The guests for Tuesday, October 24 included Ted Danson ('The Good Place'), Giancarlo Stanton and musical guest Chris Young. (Randy Holmes/ABC via Getty Images) GIANCARLO STANTON, JIMMY KIMMEL
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 05: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees in action against the Baltimore Orioles during a game at Yankee Stadium on April 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - APRIL 05: Giancarlo Stanton #27 of the New York Yankees in action against the Baltimore Orioles during a game at Yankee Stadium on April 5, 2018 in the Bronx borough of New York City. (Photo by Rich Schultz/Getty Images)
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The Pirates’ financial situation is far rosier. Over the past eight years, Pirates teams have profited more than a quarter of a billion dollars, according to calculations from Forbes. In that same time period, the franchise’s worth has jumped more than a billion dollars, to $1.25 billion. The Pirates recently traded franchise icon Andrew McCutchen and Opening Day starter Gerrit Cole.

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