An arbitration hearing is never fun. From a player’s perspective, he is trying to convince the panel why he is worth a certain amount of money for the year. The team they play for is trying to convince the panel why they are NOT worth that amount. It is a messy situation, to say the least.
For the Pirates and their best player, Bryan Reynolds, this process will take place. This season, Reynolds put a file in to make $4.9 million. The Pirates filed at $4.25 million.
Brian Reynolds filed at $4.9M, Pirates at $4.25M— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) March 23, 2022
The difference is $650,000.
On one hand, the Pirates have once again shed a light on their obvious penny-pinching ways. An extra $650,000 should be pocket change to the person owning a team worth more than one billion dollars.
On the other hand, multiple teams are headed to hearings over a few hundred thousand dollars each. It’s not just the Pirates. Just do a quick scroll down Jon Heyman’s Twitter timeline.
For the Pirates specifically, though, the optics of this ordeal couldn't look worse. Reynolds is the team’s best player. The Pirates’ payroll is so comically low right now that it's not all that funny anymore. With this hearing, a chance at an extension between the Pirates and Reynolds has to have decreased. How many people would want to stay with an organization long-term after said organization argued why you should make less money?
Just this morning, Alex Stumpf of DK Pittsburgh Sports asked Reynolds if any extension talks have taken place between him and the Pirates. They have not.
Asked Bryan Reynolds if the Pirates had approached him about a multi-year deal before the two sides filed arbitration figures. "I haven't heard anything about it. Can't really talk about that. I don't have anything."— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) March 23, 2022
That said, Reynolds is showing to be keeping his cool in terms of his relationship with the club.
Reynolds on possible long-term concerns an arb case could have for team-player relationship: "It doesn't change anything [about] the way I feel about Pittsburgh or anything like that. Any of my teammates or the team or anything like that. I understand it's part of the game."— Alex Stumpf (@AlexJStumpf) March 23, 2022
Overall, the Pirates (and many other teams) continue to be tone-deaf in regards to how they are perceived when it comes to spending. Is a difference of $650,000 worth looking incredibly cheap for the umpteenth time in this team’s history? From the Pirates' perspective, the concern of outside shame from fans and media alike has never existed in the Bob Nutting era. To think that that will start now or ever is ignorant.
It stinks though. Reynolds is an incredible player. The Pirates should be doing everything in their power to keep him happy. From a business standpoint, one would think putting the potential savings of $650,000 is extremely short-sighted.
What if the Pirates lose the hearing? Not only did they not save that money, but they also chipped a crack in the foundation of the player-team relationship. Reynolds can play nice and say it doesn’t bother him, but we all know how this works. No player likes going to arbitration.
If the Pirates win the hearing, they save money. Yay, mission accomplished. Would that money have been better served to keep your best player happy while maximizing the odds at agreeing on an extension? In theory, yes. It is a fact that winning teams make more money than losing teams via extra playoff revenue. Keeping Reynolds long-term increases the chances of having a winning team.
That’s the thing, though. Chance is the keyword here.
Why take a chance at winning when profit is guaranteed to the biggest of losers? There’s more financial risk involved with spending to win rather than not spending and losing. That’s the problem. It’s a no-brainer decision for a lot of MLB owners, not just Nutting. Take a look at the recent fire sales of the Cincinnati Reds and Oakland Athletics for example.
Winning is not the goal. Pocketing league revenue-sharing, that’s the goal. Putting out the cheapest possible product with a guaranteed profit, that’s the goal. If you get lucky and win with the said cheap team, it’s just a bonus.
With Reynolds’ arbitration hearing, Pirates fans are once again reminded that MLB owners simply do not have enough of a monetary incentive to want to win. Some like winning, sure. Most don’t care because they don’t have to. I get that it’s a business and money needs to be made. But business is not the spirit of baseball or sports in general. Winning is.
With every passing day, the spirit of winning dwindles for a majority of teams in modern MLB. Fans are constantly reminded of that. And it sucks.