A Possible Effect on Relievers from the New CBA

As a Mariner fan, I was searching for a distraction yesterday. The terrible news of Greg Halman‘s death this morning weighs heavily and I wanted to think about anything else for a little bit. There is no proper transition to the run-of-the-mill machinations of the baseball offseason. Any attempt seems glib and unimportant; because it is. Baseball is just a game and countlessly more important things will happen and be ignored today than a rumor about Andrew Bailey, but it gave me an escape for a moment.

It’s not that the rumor or tweet itself is of much importance. The Athletics are shopping Andrew Bailey around and in a seller’s market for closers, appear likely to trade him. That is hardly a surprise. Andrew Bailey is really good and valuably cost-controlled for the next couple years. Of course teams are interested.

However, the rumor kicked off a thread in my brain and I realized something. Under the new CBA, free agent compensation has changed and a direct consequence is that almost all relief pitchers will fall outside Type A now and in the future. It used to be that if you were a team that believed it to be in need of an outside closer, you could dip into free agency, but have to pay market price and likely surrender a high draft pick. Or you could attempt to trade for a closer, pay less salary, keep your draft picks and even have a chance to add some when said closer went to free agency.


Route Free Agency Trade
Cost salary + draft pick players
Benefit closer closer + lower salary + future picks

Baseball is not a perfectly efficient market given its powers of exclusivity, but the front offices are, for the most part, rational actors. Costs and benefits had to be roughly equaled for transactions to occur Also, the cost-benefit of a free agent closer had to approximate the cost-benefit of a traded for closer or the market would tilt heavily toward one until something compensated. The market has now shifted from the above to this.

Route Free Agency Trade
Cost salary players
Benefit closer closer + lower salary

The draft picks are gone from the equation and the scales are wobbling. I expect two actions to occur. Removed from the additional cost of forfeiting a draft pick, salaries for free agent closers will rise. Secondly, with the possible benefit of future compensation gone, teams should offer less in trades for relievers. It probably will not happen right away, but that’s my guess. I’m curious how, or if, that affects the market for Bailey and others.



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Matthew Carruth is a software engineer who has been fascinated with baseball statistics since age five. When not dissecting baseball, he is watching hockey or playing soccer.


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SaberTJ
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SaberTJ
4 years 8 months ago

I think you make a valid observation. Interested in seeing how it plays out myself.

designated quitter
Guest
designated quitter
4 years 8 months ago

What is really affecting the market is the realization that giving relievers long contracts (and thereby large contracts) is a recipe for disaster, unless that reliever is wearing #42. Whether viewed as “they just don’t contribute that much WAR” or as “they never seem to put together two good seasons in a row,” that attitude will keep the market depressed.

Yirmiyahu
Member
Yirmiyahu
4 years 8 months ago

Then explain the Papelbon contract.

Paul Wilson
Guest
Paul Wilson
4 years 8 months ago

I love that the new CBA came just after the Phillies forfeited their 1st round pick to sign Papelbon.

Perceptron
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Perceptron
4 years 8 months ago

Of course, if free agent reliever salaries are on the rise, offering the $12.4M qualifying contract probably won’t be too prohibitively expensive.

Had this system been implemented this season, then the Red Sox almost certainly would have offered Papelbon the qualifying contract, and I imagine the Phillies might have offered Madosn it as well (and Heath Bell on a $12.4M deal is a tradeable commodity for the Padres, though it might be risky for the Pads). Even if the qualifying offer is a tad high, the inconsistency in relievers would probably mean they prefer a multiyear contract for slightly less money.

I think what this new system will do is eliminate guys like Dotel or Saito from bringing compensation, which is absolutely warranted. No team is going to give draft picks for those guys. The elite closers should still be offered the qualifying contract, and their former teams will still be compensated.

theperfectgame
Member
theperfectgame
4 years 8 months ago

“Removed from the additional cost of forfeiting a draft pick, salaries for free agent closers will rise.”

A scary thought, considering how overpaid free agent closers are to begin with.

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