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Lesky’s Notes: It’s player vs. player in the owner’s proposal

It’s pretty clear what the owners were trying to do this week, and it doesn’t look like it worked.

MLB: Kansas City Royals at Oakland Athletics
Sep 18, 2019; Oakland, CA, USA; Kansas City Royals relief pitcher Jesse Hahn (32) pitches the ball against the Oakland Athletics during the eleventh inning at Oakland Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Kelley L Cox
Kelley L Cox-USA TODAY Sports

Guys, I seriously wish that I was writing about the Royals trying to break their six-game losing streak as they head in to face a Cleveland team at a crossroads because of their own slow start. But it’s May 29 and there’s still no baseball being played. A week ago, I was very confident there would be a 2020 season. I still am, but if we’re being totally honest, I’m slightly less confident than I was. I expected things to get ugly. What I didn’t expect was for the owners to submit a proposal that pits players against each other. With their sliding pay scale, the vast majority of big leaguers would get the vast majority of their full salary. The problem is that the highest-paid (and thus mostly the stars of the game) would only get 20 percent of their full salary and that’s a problem. The union doesn’t seem to have publicly frayed to this point, which is both a good thing for them and a bad thing for baseball. I still think a deal gets done, like I said, but there are more hiccups than I was expecting, which is honestly probably my fault for putting too much faith into these two sides to have a fair negotiation.

  • In my opinion, the initial financial proposal submitted by the owners was absolutely about trying to segment the union and to get a deal done by pitting the majority against the very powerful minority. If you look at the numbers, sure there’s a moderate difference in salaries paid out between the prorated deal and what they’d pay under their proposal, but for billionaires, it’s not nearly as big of a gap as it seems to us common folk. You really have to wonder if there is some other option that the owners are seriously considering and it can’t be discounted. Maybe the owners are fine with the season getting banged and really don’t care. I find that a little hard to believe because as much money as they claim to be losing for playing, I really don’t see how they’d be losing less even without having to pay the players. Trevor Plouffe, who has been strangely accurate through this whole mess, made a good point on Twitter yesterday saying that he thinks maybe the owners just want to drag this out long enough that 60 games is the only possibility to play. That’s the number they need to have a full postseason, and it allows them to pay less on prorated salaries and might let some fans in games if they wait longer. My biggest issue here is this isn’t a good faith negotiation, and when you start off that way, sometimes it can be tough to get back on track. Let’s hope this upcoming week is more promising than the last.
  • One player who might find himself benefiting the most from a shortened schedule is Jesse Hahn. The Royals released him and re-signed him to a big league deal this off-season, and with expanded rosters, he has a shot to be a contributor. Hahn, of course, was pretty much a starter in his first four big league seasons between the Padres and A’s, but has had trouble staying healthy throughout his career. The numbers were brutal last year in just six games with the Royals, but the stuff was good enough that you could dream a little bit on him if his command rebounds. With a shortened ramp up time, probably a more condensed schedule than players typically want and just a generally odd season, I anticipate seeing more piggyback type starts than we had in the past, and Hahn being a guy who might be really effective to face six to nine batters could be a huge weapon for the Royals during a weird season. And with Mike Matheny’s willingness to at least talk about using an opener, it could be an audition of sorts for him heading into the 2021 season. He’s a player who isn’t talked about much and likely won’t amount to much of anything, but he averaged 95+ on his sinker with good spin last season and his slider looked nasty when he was able to get to it. Again, this is an absolute longshot, but he seems likely to at least get an opportunity that he may not have during the course of a typical season.
  • I honestly don’t know what impact this shortened season will have on the trade market. On one hand, teams might not be as willing to part with the kind of talent other teams will want to chase a title in a season where a title may not feel real. On the other hand, let’s say the season starts July 3 and they put in a trade deadline of August 15 for an 82-game schedule. Whereas typically traded pieces only get about 30 percent of the season for their new team, it will be closer to 50 percent in 2020. Does that change anything? Maybe, maybe not. The players I think who seem more likely to move are actually guys like Ian Kennedy. For the sake of argument, we’ll say that he’s paid his prorated salary of about $8 million in 2020 and then he gets dealt on August 15. A team would be on the hook for $4 million for him. If he has as good a start to the year as the season he had in 2019, I have to assume some team would make that trade. And the Royals are likely not going to be asking for top end talent that a team would be hesitant to trade for this sort of season. Really I can see it both ways, but with a guy like Kennedy, if Sherman and his group are willing to eat a relative pittance like $2 million, they might be able to get something done that will at least add an intriguing player to an improving farm system. Just like everything else in this crazy year, time will tell, but I do think the trade market will favor guys like Kennedy and guys like Lindor and Bryant will likely be staying put.
  • I don’t know if you guys saw this, but MLB Network is now in the midst of 64 consecutive hours of Derek Jeter programming because...I don’t know. So anyway, I joked on Twitter that I wanted 128 hours of Joe Randa, which turned my mind to the 2003 season (also, my created player on Road to the Show was part of a 16-3 start with the Reds, so lots of reasons my mind went there) and with no games, I wanted to look back on that and how ridiculous that season was. We obviously know all about the fast start to the season, but they were in first place at the All-Star break that year! Heck, they were still tied for first on August 29. What a crazy year. The one thing that I think is easy to forget is that they went out and got two pieces to fortify that roster in trades who were absolutely nails. In the bullpen, they picked up Curtis Leskanic (who many referred to as Lesky, which was kind of cool to hear) and all he did was post a 1.73 ERA in 27 appearances out of the bullpen. Then in August, they picked up Rondell White, who hit .347/.400/.613 in 85 plate appearances. It obviously wasn’t enough, and I think the season became more fun when the Royals were actually good and actually won some things in 2014 and 2015, but that was the first year I remember it being fun to go to the ballpark because you might see a win or two after the strike. The next time was 2009, but that was all because of Zack Greinke (yes, I think I went to every one of his home starts) and then not again really until 2013. So it was a bit of a weird thought process to get there, but I’ve spent a fair amount of time the last day or so thinking about the 2003 Royals because that was a fun as hell team.