So far, I have prided myself on keeping a professional site free of grammatical errors (to the best of my ability) and bad language. That almost changed when I read this article explaining that several agents were pushing the Players Association to file a grievance against the teams for colluding against the free agents this past off-season. I was not happy about this, but am happy that Bud Selig had such a dismissive attitude towards the accusations.
The first reason this ticked me off is because the game is changing. Teams are winning with cost-effective young superstars, not bloated free agent contracts. This in turn is changing the free agent landscape. Last year, the World Champions Phillies paid ace Cole Hamels $500k, Chase Utley $7.85 MM, Shane Victorino 480k, Jimmy Rollins $ 8 MM, and Ryan Howard $10 MM, all who produced way better numbers than what the franchise would get for similar money on the open market.
The AL champion Rays were even more cost effective:
Carl Crawford – $5.75 MM
Scott Kazmir – $3.79 MM
Evan Longoria – $500k
BJ Upton – $412k
Matt Garza – $405k
In today’s game, it is not worth losing your first round pick unless you are getting a franchise player like Mark Teixeira. Why on earth would a team want to give up the opportunity to draft the next Troy Tulowitzki to sign Type A free agent Orlando Cabrera? No one was colluding against Cabrera, they just understood that he was the lesser of two possible options. A first round pick who pans out will give you better numbers and you control him for seven years, the first three of which will probably be for half a million dollars per year. It is a no-brainer.
The second reason I am upset is the economy. Total Opening Day payrolls fell less than 2% from 2008 to 2009. Boo hoo. The S&P 500 dropped almost 40% during the same time span, as did the Dow Jones. Despite this, agents have the gall to complain that average player compensation dropped by $50,000. If it was the guys making the major league minimum losing this money I would have a little more sympathy, as that represents about 12.5% of their total compensation. However it is not. It is hitting the multi-million dollar players. $50,000 is a drop in the bucket for them.
This particular quote from Seth Levinson, who represented almost a dozen free agents this past off-season, really irked me.
There are too many things that need to be explained. In my experience, there are no coincidences in a monopoly.
Baseball is not a monopoly. Not sure if you have noticed Seth, but baseball teams are being run by businessmen now, and these men are running their teams like businesses. They are making decisions based on which players will give them the best production for their resources, both in terms of dollars and draft picks.
The current free agent system with the Type A and B criteria is no longer appropriate for today’s game, and unless we see some changes in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, we will see more of the same in the future.