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Pirates

MLB finds Pirates to be in compliance with how they spend revenue-share money

| Friday, Jan. 26, 2018, 11:09 a.m.
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen gives the fans a curtain call after his first career grand slam during the second inning against the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
Pirates center fielder Andrew McCutchen gives the fans a curtain call after his first career grand slam during the second inning against the Orioles Tuesday, Sept. 26, 2017, at PNC Park.
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole leaves the game to a standing ovation during the eighth inning against the Nationals on Sunday, July 26, 2015, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Trib Total Media
Pirates pitcher Gerrit Cole leaves the game to a standing ovation during the eighth inning against the Nationals on Sunday, July 26, 2015, at PNC Park.
PNC Park usher Phil Coyne, who has worked at Pirates games for over 80 years, will celebrate his 99th birthday on Thursday. The Pirates honored Coyne with a jersey presentation by president Frank Coonelly before a game against the Cubs Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at PNC Park.
Christopher Horner | Tribune-Review
PNC Park usher Phil Coyne, who has worked at Pirates games for over 80 years, will celebrate his 99th birthday on Thursday. The Pirates honored Coyne with a jersey presentation by president Frank Coonelly before a game against the Cubs Wednesday, April 26, 2017, at PNC Park.

Major League Baseball exonerated the Pirates and Miami Marlins on Friday after the players' union raised concerns the teams were not using their revenue-sharing money properly.

The Players' Association raised red flags after the Pirates and Marlins whacked their payrolls this winter with a flurry of trades. The Pirates saved $21.5 million by dealing their top two players, Andrew McCutchen and Gerrit Cole.

MLB's Basic Agreement stipulates revenue-sharing receipts must be used by a team "in an effort to improve its performance on the field."

That vague term covers more than the salaries of players on the major league roster. The cash may be used to cover signing bonuses for draft picks and international signings, to hire more scouts and front office staff, to improve technology systems and for upgrades in the player development system.

Each team must give the union an annual accounting of how its revenue-sharing dollars are being used.

News of the union's concerns broke Friday morning. MLBPA spokesman Greg Bouris said the union was "waiting to have further dialogue, and that will dictate our next steps."

That evening, the commissioner's office issued a statement that it's confident the Pirates and Marlins are obeying the Basic Agreement when it comes to revenue-sharing proceeds.

"The Pirates have steadily increased their payroll over the years while at the same time decreasing their revenue sharing," the statement said. "The union has not informed us that it intends to file a grievance against either team."

Pirates president Frank Coonelly took a victory lap after hearing MLB's response.

"As required by the (CBA), we share with MLB and the union each year the detail as to how our revenue sharing receipts are used to put a winning team on the field," Coonelly said in a prepared statement. "What that detail shows is that while our revenue sharing receipts have decreased for seven consecutive seasons, our major league payroll more than doubled over that same period.

"Indeed, our revenue sharing receipts are now just a fraction of what we spend on major league payroll, let alone all of the other dollars that we spend on scouting, player development and other baseball investments, several areas in which we are among the League leaders in spending. Thus, the commissioner is well equipped to address whatever 'concerns' the Union now purportedly has over the Pirates' efforts to win."

Coonelly did not reveal how much the Pirates have received via revenue-sharing over the past seven seasons.

In 2010, the players' union questioned the Pirates' usage of revenue-sharing receipts.

The Pirates in 2008 had a $51 million payroll and finished last in the NL Central. According to documents leaked by Deadspin, the Pirates got $39 million from revenue sharing and made a $14 million profit that year.

The MLBPA's inquiry in 2010 resulted in the discovery of no infractions.

Rob Biertempfel is a Tribune-Review staff writer. Reach him at rbiertempfel@tribweb.com or via Twitter @BiertempfelTrib.

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