During a time when free agency is at a standstill, the two National League clubs have had no issues making deals. Since December, the Marlins have traded Dee Gordon, Giancarlo Stanton, Marcell Ozuna, and Christian Yelich, while the Pirates have moved Gerrit Cole and Andrew McCutchen.
With each team essentially tanking, the Major League Baseball Players' Association is reportedly gathering information and exploring whether the Marlins and Pirates are complying with the league's rules and reinvesting the millions earned through revenue sharing back into baseball operations, sources told Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.
MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a new collective bargaining agreement last winter that runs through 2021. Under it, every team pays a percentage of their local revenue into revenue sharing, which is then divided among the teams. However, teams in the largest markets are disqualified from receiving money from the pool, which is distributed among small-market teams. That money is intended to be spent on improving the team, such as using it to pay players.
After the Marlins boasted a franchise-record $115-million payroll last season, new ownership has slashed things dramatically by trading roughly $370 million in future salary commitments and will boast one of the league's lowest payrolls in 2018.
Pirates ownership has also been criticized this winter after dealing away fan favorites in McCutchen and Cole. The club has $84.1 million committed to salary this season, according to Cots Baseball Contracts, which would mark a third straight year in which payroll has declined.
"When I hear them say, 'We're the poor Pittsburgh Pirates,' I go, 'Whoa! Just a minute,'" agent Scott Boras said, according to Rob Biertempfel of the Pittsburgh Tribune. "This guy (owner Bob Nutting) is sitting on an economic volcano. Where else can you increase the value of your franchise to $1 billion and not have to win anything?
"They increased profits by $60 million (since 2012), and they're saying they can't retain their stars? It’s clearly a matter of choice. They choose not to (retain players) because they want to make money."