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Fixing Free Agency, MLB’s Dark Cloud

Posted by Ted Schwerzler , 16 January 2019 · 698 views

We are now halfway through January and are in the middle of a free agency cycle that is highlighted by two premiere talents. In a sport that suppresses player earnings for nearly a decade, opportunities to sign youthful megastars at the height of their potential is largely uncharted territory. Even with that reality currently sitting before us, players are watching as organizations hand out moderate deals and scrutinize anything that truly would move the needle.

At the current juncture, there’s no less than 50 major league caliber players still awaiting a home for the 2019 season. Multiple teams have yet to sign a player to a big-league deal, and even more are looking at spending thresholds that fall significantly short of anything reflecting actual revenues. We’re still talking about athletes becoming millionaires in this entire scenario, but owners are sitting on wads of cash that have them all starting at sums best described with a “B.”

There’s little reason to deny significant flaws in the current CBA structure. Owners took the MLB Players Association to the woodshed, and that has never been more apparent than the past two winters. You can bet stronger negotiation tactics will be employed during the next round of discussions but coming up with ideas in order to spark improvement is the first step. While we won’t see anything implemented right now today, there seems to be one avenue to create buzz and heighten fan interest.

Looking across the landscape of the three major sports, fans hang onto the opportunity to watch transactions occur at a breakneck pace. Whether it be the MLB trade deadline, NFL free agency, or either of those instances in the NBA, players moving at a fast pace gives fans something to gravitate towards. The success that Major League Baseball sees mid-season could potentially be harnessed over the winter as well.

We can talk a certain threshold of dollars needing to be handed out, and there could even be a mandate put on percentage of revenues being spent. What if the league decided to create a free agency window? By forcing teams to conduct negotiations between a certain time period, you’d allow agents, players, and organizations to all have their cards on the table together. Inciting some sort of bidding war for talent could be a nice by-product of this exercise, and a sense of urgency would have fans involved in the progress their perspective team is making.

In this proposed scenario, one of the largest hurdles would seem to be what to do beyond a presented window of opportunity. Inevitably not every player would find a deal and you can’t simply ask them all to accept MiLB pacts or something of that ilk. Finding an incentive for teams to sign players during the free agency period, while also working in the best interests of players, would seemingly marry all attempted goals together.

At the end of the day, I don’t think there’s any way some drastic changes won’t be taking place. We’ll see multiple propositions as to what they may look like, and eventually different options will come to fruition. For now, we’ll have to continue this waiting game while a significant number of talented players wonder where spring training will take place.

For more from Off The Baggy, click here. Follow @tlschwerz




How about we designate all players free agents when they are 27, there peaks, and let the teams scramble to put their rosters together.It might be fun and chaotic.  

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Ted Schwerzler
Jan 16 2019 03:29 PM

 

How about we designate all players free agents when they are 27, there peaks, and let the teams scramble to put their rosters together.It might be fun and chaotic.  

I don't think you can tie it to a specific age due to debuts, but I think there absolutely has to be a reduction in overall service time.

As a twinsfan i want players to have 10 years service time before they become free agents.
    • beckmt and woolywoolhouse like this

While I understand every player's desire to make as much money as possible, I do not understand the concept that any of these players that have made it as far as free agency are in any way suffering or in need of being felt sorry for. 

Why, as fans, would we want to make things more cushy for them early in their careers, thus removing the incentives for them to perform at a high level to get an opportunity to cash in on the payday of a lifetime for almost any of us.

While I acknowledge that the players have every right to negotiate as lucrative of a CBA as they possibly can for their benefit, I certainly do not think it is in any way not the owner's rights to also negotiate an agreement that is in their best interest.

When we are talking about players getting contracts for hundreds of millions of dollars and holding out for more, I for one do not have any feelings of pity for any of these players.

I do, however, feel a degree of sympathy for all the thousands of players who have tried and failed to reach this pinacle of the sports world. The ones that toiled as hard or most likely harder than a lot of these guys that now stand to make a mere "million" dollars a year because they are being so "abused" by front offices and ownership.

Thus is life. Get used to it.

 

 

    • SD Buhr and 3balls2strikes like this
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Ted Schwerzler
Jan 16 2019 06:40 PM
With that argument, you’re arguing in favor of owners (who already exploit talent for at least 7 years) to make more billions, instead of the players whose talent drive the game, to make their millions. Odd stance to take
    • Platoon likes this

I do not favor either. I just see no need to be jealous of ownership just because they have money. A lot of these rules are in place to protect the smaller market teams from being ravished by the big market ones. What kind of position do you think the Twins would be in if the Yankees were allowed to come in and take all their good players just as the Twins get them developed and ready to produce at a high level. And don't give me that "the Twins are not a small market team" because they are all small market if the yankees and red sox etc. are allowed to spend at will.

    • SD Buhr and 3balls2strikes like this

Until you have a hard salary cap, you will have these issues.This is the essence of big market vs small market teams.In this world to help you have to make the luxury tax penalties much higher to keep teams from going over unless they are going all in for one year.  

Since it is unlikely baseball will have a hard cap, you need to have both a minimum salary spend andaluxury tax level that is closer to the minimum salary spend, with an over penalty of at least 50% of the overage.This might not work, but is would lower the difference between the haves and the have nots, and prevent teams like Miami from just pocketing money, because they can and then get rebates to help the profits.  

Baseball econ question:What if players made a base salary based on service time that peaked out at 7 years (for example...year 1 games $1 m, capping out at year 7 games at $3 m, going back down to $1 m at 10 years).Then put performance metrics out there for the rest of the pay after year 1.Make it so virtually an above average player should have no problem getting above double the base. Big performers can rake.

 

Does it work in a formerly capitalist country?ha.

 

Most owners are businessmen. Apparently they have decided to implement a fairly standard business practice, albeit using larger numbers than usual. This practice is called "I'll keep as much as I can, and give you as little as I can get away with, minus 10%" One of the reasons this works is the playoff format, the extra WC teams and games. And the fans! The secret to this is that in late September and through October you don't have to be that talented a team to be a 'contender'. Simply competent suffices. Teams can trumpet their chance to grab that second WC ring even while touting barely a .500 record well into October, and the fans will spin the turnstyles. Why pay mega bucks to exceed that level. And while this lack of competition for a big time FA allows an ego driven large market owner to still garner the top flight talent, he can now do so at a much lower cost per year. The limited lack of leverage that employees now 'enjoy' is catching up to MLB. It's on a much higher economic level, but it's coming. This could be the seed for a CBA that would generate more income earlier in a players career, but also take away the big pot at the end of the rainbow. But that will require a long drawn out battle waged between corporations with endless resources versus young employees with limited leverage, a time constrained window to reap the fruits of their talents, and evaluated on an extremely subjective basis. Add in an endless stream of teenagers who would love to take away your job, since their training program is in effect legalized slavery, and it's not a recipe for success. It's going to be very difficult for players to succeed in this battle, in this sport particularly.
    • SD Buhr likes this
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Ted Schwerzler
Jan 17 2019 08:53 AM

Most owners are businessmen. Apparently they have decided to implement a fairly standard business practice, albeit using larger numbers than usual. This practice is called "I'll keep as much as I can, and give you as little as I can get away with, minus 10%"

One of the reasons this works is the playoff format, the extra WC teams and games. And the fans! The secret to this is that in late September and through October you don't have to be that talented a team to be a 'contender'. Simply competent suffices. Teams can trumpet their chance to grab that second WC ring even while touting barely a .500 record well into October, and the fans will spin the turnstyles. Why pay mega bucks to exceed that level. And while this lack of competition for a big time FA allows an ego driven large market owner to still garner the top flight talent, he can now do so at a much lower cost per year. The limited lack of leverage that employees now 'enjoy' is catching up to MLB. It's on a much higher economic level, but it's coming. This could be the seed for a CBA that would generate more income earlier in a players career, but also take away the big pot at the end of the rainbow. But that will require a long drawn out battle waged between corporations with endless resources versus young employees with limited leverage, a time constrained window to reap the fruits of their talents, and evaluated on an extremely subjective basis. Add in an endless stream of teenagers who would love to take away your job, since their training program is in effect legalized slavery, and it's not a recipe for success. It's going to be very difficult for players to succeed in this battle, in this sport particularly.


Well articulated!

Platoon pretty much nailed it. Players would actually likely be better off financially if they could convince MLB to reduce the number of playoff teams, but the players all want to get to the postseason just as much as fans do, so that's not likely to go anywhere in MLBPA meetings.

 

What players and agents want in the next CBA will be for players, as a group, to get a bigger piece of the revenue pie. But it's going to be difficult, if not impossible, for them to get it without giving up something or being willing to strike.

 

More likely, the union is going to have to decide whether to change how the existing payroll numbers are distributed. If minimum wage players are taking away veteran jobs, then maybe they push to significantly raise the minimum or reduce the years of team control (which also likely wouldn't happen without a strike).

 

So giving more money to young players would mean a counter adjustment that would take that money from someone else at the higher end of the scale. Not going to be easy to get star veteran players to vote for that.

 

The players absolutely have taken a beating in CBA deals over the past decade or two. But knowing that doesn't mean it will automatically change the next time around. I simply don't believe players have the backbone to do anything but complain about it... and that won't get them anything better than they have now.