The Greedy

Full disclosure: this was written well in advance to the midnight deadline, so if camp Boras leads a mass exodus of first round holdouts, I didn’t know at the time.

If a draft pick holds out, it’s always his fault. Either he’s greedy or Scott Boras is an insult to the game, maybe a mixture of both. Let a non-Strasburg draftee, like say, Donovan Tate (Note: he actually signed during the writing process, hypothetical!) go unsigned and see how many columnists, radio hosts, and fans turn him into a villain.

When it comes to money matters, the players are always, always, always wrong in the eyes of the public. I would guess it has to do with the loyalty factor. Most fans are fans of teams, not random high school or college players. Sure, you may like the new draft pick, and have high hopes for him, but you didn’t go to Padres.com on draft day and order a Tate jersey like you do with the NFL and NBA draft picks. Odds are fans have never seen the average draftee play – unlike the other sports – and thus there’s nothing to hang your hat on. He’s a mostly faceless entity trying to “extort” as much money out of the team as possible.

Except the players have every right to be selfish in these cases. The ones who do make it to the pros – and not many of any given draft class will – are essentially entering indentured servitude for the first three years. Only after three years of service do players get a share of the money they’ve earned and potentially get a nice free agent contract. That’s only for a small subset of these players, the rest are looking at their only real payday through baseball and have every right to try and get as much as possible.

The side that always backs the owners has some decent points as well. Why should the owners have to pay extra when the player is likely to flame out before reaching the majors? And why should the owners have to deal with the scorned lectures from Bud Selig when they go over slot?

The only solution is for a hard-slotting system. Either take slot or your rights are retained by the drafting team for the next six or seven years. As a concession for stabilized draft payouts, the owners would have to give back to the players, perhaps lowering the amount of service time required for free agency. Of course, the owners probably spend more money through this system than the other, but only in the long-run.

I’m not saying I have the answers or that either side is without some blame in the equation, but I am saying it’s a bit unfair to peg every teenager or twenty-something looking for a few hundred thousand over slot as a greedy villain.




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68 Responses to “The Greedy”

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  1. DBA455 says:

    “The only solution is a hard-slotting system.”??? How about … the free market?

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    • PhD Brian says:

      no a free market for just rookies is unfair because at best the large market teams sign everyone good and the small market teams lose, at worst the market breaks down. Bonuses for players would go through the roof because each individual player is unique and thus has no true competition for his services. The best player in each draft can charge monopoly rents (IE theoretically an unlimited amount of money) and this market potentially breaks down and no one signs if no team can afford the best guy. There is no true competition since he is the best player. And this could happen at each position on the team theoretically. If the marjet does not break down, then best player signs for as much as the yankees (or whoever) can afford, then the next player can then charge a nearly unlimited amount since he has a monopoly on talent at that point. This is all because players are not easily interchangeable at the top talent levels. The best player has a monopoly on being the best talent. He charges unregulated monopoly rents (theoretically whatever he wants to charge). This market breaks down easily and noone signs.
      You could alleviate most of this by creating more competition through an annual free market signing of every player in the world, but the continuity of uniforms would not exist at all. This is possible because existing players have major league stats, and therefore can be directly compared. This ruins the market for rookies big paydays because the players with stats would go for more than those without them in most cases. But, teams would change entire rosters every year. The team with the most money and health would almost always win. Teams would have no incentive to develop players, rookies would be paid almost nothing, and the top players would be paid more than they are paid now, but only for a year. I am unsure if many players would still play baseball under this system.

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      • Matt says:

        You know that baseball already has a free market pool of rookies right, right? It’s called Latin America.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        Wow, please tell me your PhD is not in economics. Your understanding of economics, monopoly power, and labor economics is astonishingly flawed.

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      • j reed says:

        “Wow, please tell me your PhD is not in economics. Your understanding of economics, monopoly power, and labor economics is astonishingly flawed.”

        If this is the case, then prove why it is flawed. I’m not a PhD in economics in fact I’ve never had an economics class, so maybe i missed something obvious, but shouldn’t criticism at the very least, come with an explanation.

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      • Toffer Peak says:

        Sure, Wikipedia Monopoly, Economics and Labor Economics. You can also check any economics textbook or journal that you want. In no place will you find a legitimate economist argue that, “The best player in each draft can charge monopoly rents (IE theoretically an unlimited amount of money) and this market potentially breaks down and no one signs if no team can afford the best guy. There is no true competition since he is the best player.”

        Um how did A-Rod (the best available player) get signed to a contract? CC? etc. In a free market players will get paid approximately their marginal value to the team. They in no way will ever get “an unlimited amount of money”. Does that make any sense to you?

        Seriously this was 2nd grade logic. It was simply fundamentally flawed and made no sense. You don’t even need to have taken an economics class to see the complete lack of any sense in this argument.

        The Beatles have a monopoly on their music and do their CDs sell for “an unlimited amount of money”. Of course not, they pretty much sell for the exact same as other music CDs, $10~15. Players are no different.

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  2. Jon says:

    you’re talking about free agency. the circumstances here are the draft limiting the market to having only one consumer (the team). a free market lets supply and demand of the entire consumer universe dictate price.

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  3. Or says:

    Honestly, it might be advisable for badly-advised,delusional high schoolers as well (obviously depending on the way the hard slotting system is scaled).
    I’m saying this because Matthew Purke turned down 4 million dollars from Texas. That’s more than Matzek got from the Rockies, more than Smoak got from the Rangers last year, more than double the slot amount. And there is no doubt in my mind that 2 years from now he will intensely regret refusing to sign.

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  4. rfs1962 says:

    There are lots of solutions other than a hard slotting system. Why on earth should the team with the fewest wins get the first choice in the draft? The draft itself is unnecessary. I don’t know a thing about how the Nationals prepare their pitchers, for instance, but you can see why a Stephen Strasburg might not want to join a team with a reputation for destroying young pitchers. And he shouldn’t have to.

    My idea would be to create an auction pool of money each year. Teams would use their auction pool money to bid for the right to negotiate with players. Poor teams would get more than good teams, but success in the process would come down to more than which slot you have. The players would have some leverage, too. If Stephen Strasburg didn’t want to play for the Nats, he could make that clear. They might win him at auction anyway, but at least they’d have a better sense of their risk.

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  5. Rob says:

    The owners can basically do whatever with the draft since the MLBPA would love less money spent on draft picks because that means more money for actual union members. The problem isn’t the player’s union, its the owners. New York and Boston don’t want to give up the ability to pick up above slot talent because of signability concerns. Until there is something that gets 26 owners on board nothing will change.

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  6. Andy S says:

    I offer you 650k for 3 years of indentured servitude. Guess what? You just earned over 200k a year.

    I’m sorry, but I think people have every right to villanize the players who don’t sign because $1 million isn’t enough for them. You’re getting an opportunity to play baseball for a career, which you should enjoy, make a large salary, AND get a shot at the big leagues. And unless you’re passing up college in the process, there’s basically not penalty for giving it a shot.

    The only players I have sympathy for are those who pass a contract up for college, or whose signing bonus is less than $200k.

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    • Joel says:

      Jealousy is not a valid argument in this debate.

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      • Andy S says:

        It’s not jealousy, I’m just saying the players are getting offered more than a fair deal. The players ARE getting greedy, but we don’t realize it because in baseball terms, $300k sounds like a small amount of money.

        Truth is, it’s a huge amount of money.

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      • Teej says:

        Truth is, it’s a huge amount of money.

        And it is a horribly small percentage of the total revenue that is earned based on their work. If someone paid $10 to watch you play the piano, and the owner of the auditorium took $9.50 and left you with a couple of quarters, you’d be pretty pissed. The dollar figure isn’t as important as fairness in distribution.

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      • JH says:

        Our definitions of fair are different. I define a fair wage in relation to the amount of revenue a player produces, not whether or not the salary is livable. More importantly, it goes both ways. Teams have profit margins in the tens of millions, and still quibble over sums in the tens of thousands of dollars. How are THEY any less culpable? It’s a negotiation. Both sides are attempting to get the best deal they can. The player is already severely handicapped in that endeavor, yet shoulders virtually all of the blame when things go wrong. It’s stupid.

        Also, as huge as the dollar figure sounds, remember that this is a lump sum that for most of these guys is the only big payday they will EVER have in their lives. As a generalization, baseball players coming straight out of high school or straight out of their junior year of college aren’t exactly a who’s who of the best and brightest young folks in the world. These guys don’t have a huge array of secondary options if baseball doesn’t work out. Most of them will either become coaches, trainers, managers, or scouts making very modest salaries if major leaguer doesn’t work out. $1 million may sound like a lot, but if it’s your only payday and you expect to live 20+ years, we’re not talking about a group of people who are necessarily set for life by signing this contract. $1 million over 20 years is $50k/year. Subtract taxes from the lump sum, it’s about $33k/year. And that’s if you’re responsible and stash a large amount of the money away. The reality is that most of that $1 million will be gone in the first 5-10 years.

        These guys have a significant amount of value at this moment in time, and anyone with even a modicum of sense understands that the value of their skills could disappear at any time. Armed with that knowledge, there’s absolutely no reason a draft pick shouldn’t hold out for every last dollar he can milk out of his first professional contract.

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    • Matt Harms says:

      “There’s basically not a penality for giving it a shot”

      Penalties: Removing yourself from the skilled workforce for 5-10 years will set you back pretty far from your peers in the non-baseball world. Double that if you skipped college to take a shot at pro-ball. You’re also leveraging a lifetime of abuse on your body. Plus, substance abuse among those who flame out is pretty high, too. (I think E:60 did a story on that a year or two ago.)

      There are most definitely penalties. Leaving the baseball world and trying to find a “normal” job is no easy task, especially when you’ve been out of the work force for a decade. Rookies have every reason to try and squeeze every penny out of their contract, because it’s likely the only one they’ll see, and they’ll need to live off that money for the rest of their life.

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      • Andy S says:

        Where on Earth are you getting these assumptions from? You’re not out of the workforce for a decade, or even 5 years, you’re out of it for 3 years. There are plenty of people who try the minors, it doesn’t work out, and get another job, how the HELL do you get to the assumption that “it’s likely the only contract they’ll see, and they’ll have to live off that money for the rest of their life.” That’s just insulting to ballplayers, and an incredible joke. These are some of the most unsubstantiated claims I’ve ever seen.

        Like I said, skipping college is the only penalty I can think of. A lifetime of abuse? What? You’re putting your body in better shape if you’re playing baseball every day. I put my body through more abuse because I don’t sleep, drink a ton of caffeine, and don’t eat healthily/work out. And substance abuse? Well, I think that’s up to the player, not the job…

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      • Matt Harms says:

        Top prospects will be given a few years to develop. If they don’t, they might be picked up by other teams, maybe play some indy ball, etc. *All they know is baseball.* So to say that they’d only be out of the private work force for only 3 years is pretty laughable.

        And sorry dude, but very few prospects every make it to the majors. Pull up the first three or four rounds of the last 10 years’ worth of amateur drafts. It’s littered with names you’ve likely never heard of. The risk of not making the majors is enough to make sure you earn your pay on your rookie contract. Because I’m sorry, but many–if not most–of those kids will never see a free agency contract.

        And if you think that players don’t put crazy abuse on their bodies, then there’s no use trying to have an intelligent conversation with you. Arms aren’t meant to take the abuse of a few thousand fastballs thrown each year. All it takes is one injury and a few lost mph on your fastball, and you’re done. Teams don’t have very long leashes with players who have earned the “injured” tag in the minors. While players in the majors have a track record to bank on when they come back from injuries, prospects do not.

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      • Andy S says:

        If they’re picked up by other teams, then I’d assume the player’s been released, and so with signing with another minors team or an indy league, it’s no longer indentured servitude, and they can choose a different career path. And if all they know is baseball, was that all they were doing in their college years? If so, we have a much larger societal problem. Many baseball players elect to go to college to develop a skill in case baseball doesn’t work out. I don’t see how saying they would be out in the workforce in 3 years is laughable…either they’re bad and get cut early, are good and make it to AAA and are never promoted, or make it to the majors. 3-4 years we’re looking at here for everyone but the AAAers for life. So most of them will have at least the opportunity to get out early, and should have some skill set in case it doesn’t work out. I believe I read about 10% of players make the majors, for whatever it’s worth.

        Pitchers do put abuse on their arms, but just their arms. Otherwise, they’re getting into the best shape of their lives. If they get a serious injury, it’s probably only going to keep them out from sports…but I don’t see how this is even related to the question at hand. Either you sign, and you play, and you risk injury and are no longer able to play (and it’s highly unlikely injury would be something that could seriously inhibit you from being a productive part of society), or you don’t sign, and you never even have the opportunity. I don’t see how this is much of a deterrent from signing. “I don’t want to play baseball because I don’t want to risk getting hurt”?

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      • JH says:

        Just looking at the 1999 draft, 30 of the 51 players taken in the 1st round and 1S round failed to make the majors (or received only a 2-3 game cup of coffee). Those players spent an average of 6.65 years in the minors. 4 of them spent 3 or fewer, and all 4 went down to injuries. Conversely, 10 of them spent 9 or more seasons from their draft day skipping around the minors.

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      • B says:

        “And if all they know is baseball, was that all they were doing in their college years? If so, we have a much larger societal problem.”

        Maybe you should look at graduation rates of D1 football and basketball players. Yes, there IS a much larger problem, and the reality is, players trying to play high level baseball will suffer from this problem. Simply choosing to ignore the fact that, on average, these guys have less transferable skills to most other jobs doesn’t make it untrue…

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      • TomG says:

        “And if all they know is baseball, was that all they were doing in their college years? If so we have a much larger societal problem.”

        How is this any different from, say, someone with a degree in physics struggling to find a job outside his respective field because he lacks the qualifications?

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      • Andy S says:

        I’m sorry, I don’t understand the physics argument…what are you trying to argue with that?

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      • TomG says:

        Never mind; I read your original statement as an indictment of all college players that fail to transition into a non-baseball life as opposed to ones that consciously choose not to plan for it. Proceed.

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      • PhD Brian says:

        I have read studies that say that individuals who play college sports and do not go on to be athletes professionally make 20-30% more on average than graduates from the same college that do not play sports. I am willing to say that advantage probably extends to those that play professionally for a while and fail, and I’d bet more so. Unless your saying the guys that are drafted are dumber than the ones not drafted which is something I doubt. personally, I have known employers in big banks that go out of their way to hire former athletes because they view them as more coach able and better team players. On wall street, in sales, in my experience and I worked Wall street sales for 15 years, being an X pro athlete is as much of an advantage to getting jobs and being promoted as is an Ivy league degree.

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  7. Bill says:

    “Except the players have every right to be selfish in these cases. The ones who do make it to the pros – and not many of any given draft class will – are essentially entering indentured servitude for the first three years. ”

    Making hundreds of thousands or even millions of dollars is indentured servitude? It’s not as though the players *have* to play baseball before they sign.

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    • Matt Harms says:

      While indentured servitude is probably taking it a bit far, it is true that they’re denied fair market wages for all of their pre-arb years, and to an extent, their arb-eligible years, too. Example, Tim Lincecum making $400k last year with a fair market value of $30 Million+.

      I mean think about it, how would you feel if you knew you could make $100k at your job, but your boss only has to pay you $10k for your first three years.

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      • Bill says:

        Oh I definitely agree it’s an unfair system, but it’s one that is imperfect in basically every sport. NBA probably works best, but the NBA is a pretty strict slotting system and much less of a crapshoot. Given the fact 10th round picks can be and often are much more successful than 1st round picks in baseball, and it’s no guarantee a first rounder will even see a big-league, means that baseball players are inherently more risky.

        Yeah, NBA players can be huge busts, but at the very least they will play and contribute something 95% of the time.

        Basically it seems really unfair to players when they vastly outperform their contracts, but it’s pretty unfair to owners when they spend millions on players who do nothing.

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      • Matt says:

        Anyone who believes in free markets should logically conclude that taking away the slotting system and making all amateur players free agents would remove the unfairness for both sides.

        Owners would factor in the risk that prospects don’t pan out, as well as the potential revenue they would drive, and come up with fair market value contracts. Giving anything but fair market value (with all those risks and rewards factored in) would be inefficient and thus automatically penalized.

        I happen to believe that free markets often fail, and that this is one of those situations where a pure market would botch the system terribly. But considering we live in a capitalist country where people kick and scream like babies about adding a public health care option, it’s a little strange that most people think that the draft and slot system followed in most sports is ok (and in the case of baseball, not harsh enough).

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      • B says:

        “Basically it seems really unfair to players when they vastly outperform their contracts, but it’s pretty unfair to owners when they spend millions on players who do nothing.”

        Given success rates on 1st round picks and the value you get from ones that hit, I would be extremely surprised if the owners didn’t win in the end. Of course not every investment pans out, the point is to look at the investment portfolio as a whole, and as of right now the owners definitely win with draft picks.

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      • Matt says:

        Exactly. Just look at teams like the A’s, Marlins, and Rays. They are contending because of the excess value that either they, or someone they traded with, got from the draft.

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      • PhD Brian says:

        No system that gives someone 100s of thousands for doing something fun at the age of 20 will ever be unfair. I would play professional ball for half what I make in my current job and that is less than millions. I am better at my current job (and that job does more good for society at large than any baseball game), than 99.9% of current professional baseball players are at theirs, yet I do not make millions or even the major league minimum. My brother is a professor of surgery at Harvard who invented a way to save millions of lives, he is the finest MD in his field in the world without debate, and he makes less than the minimum for a rookie major league baseball player. But that is not unfair, because by paying ticket prices you guys decide what is fair for baseball players, MDs, and what is fair for me. ARod earns more guaranteed money per year than every individual bank employee on earth including CEOs earned in any one year ever. More than anyone ever earned at AIG even before the extra AIG wage tax. Strasburg will now out earn Citibanks CEO in 2009. If Crow has signed his contract his bonus would have been larger than George Bush earned in salary combined during his entire time as President of the USA. It is far from unfair!

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  8. sss45 says:

    Great article. Every year about this time we hear about what a horrible person Scott Boras is. Here is a guy who earns millions for kids who mostly come from middle and lower class backgrounds. This money comes out of the pockets of team owners, men from mostly upper class backgrounds.

    Boras’s interests line up pretty closely to his group of clients as a whole, but not any particular individual. For a player not to sign isn’t really in his best interest if the offer is remotely reasonable and the organization isn’t an absolute train wreck. Boras will hold a player out because there has to be the threat in the negotiation that he is capable of it, thereby increasing his leverage in all negotiations.

    Think about it this way. What % of his salary does every player in MLB today owe to Boras and his negotiating tactics over the years, particularly the higher paid ones?

    I will say the draft is broke, and an actual hard slotting system is the solution in my belief. The windfall of MLB profits should be going to established veterans, not unestablished HS and college prospects who have a high bust %.

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    • B says:

      “I will say the draft is broke, and an actual hard slotting system is the solution in my belief. The windfall of MLB profits should be going to established veterans, not unestablished HS and college prospects who have a high bust %.”

      The windfall of MLB profits already does go to establish veterans. I’m not sure why you see hard slotting as the solution, isn’t the whole point that a team wants to pay a player for the performance they give the team, not past performance elsewhere? You can easily take bust % into account when establishing an expected value of a player and draft picks, so it seems like that shouldn’t be a big problem…

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  9. Jacob Jackson says:

    I’m almost certain hard slotting will happen in the next CBA, but to be fair, I think the trading of draft picks has to come with that right. What if the top pick isn’t Strasburg-worthy? The team with the No. 1 pick shouldn’t be forced to give an amateur a $15M bonus if the guy they prefer is less heralded and a better value later in the first round. If teams are pigeonholed into what they have to pay players by each slot, then they should be allowed to trade out of the coveted-yet-very-expensive high first-round slots, too.

    As for the concession made to MLBPA in return, I think R.J. hits on the first an most obvious one: That players reach free agency after five years, instead of six. The game is getting younger in the post-PED era, and unlike 10 years ago, only the most elite stars in FA are getting lucrative long-term FA deals. Players in the union will be VERY desirous to reach that FA milestone a year sooner, especially since they are far less likely now to get handsome FA contracts in their 30s than they were in years past.

    But I think that concession – reducing the service time required for reaching free agency from six years to five – is actually TOO generous to the players and would be a sticking point for the owners.

    My bold prediction for the next CBA in 2011 looks like this:

    Players Get:

    *All players reach arbitration after exactly two years of service, rather than the current three. The Super Two designation is eliminated completely.

    *The minimum salary is raised to $500,000, up from the current (in 2011) of $410,000. For some perspective, the minimum salary in the NBA is $736,000(?) and the NFL’s is $310,000. In those leagues, however, a player earns the right to a free-market value contract at a far younger age than do professional baseball players. An NBA first-round draft pick can become an unrestricted free agent after four years, once his hard-slot rookie contract expires. An NFL draft pick can become the highest-paid player in the league at his position on draft day (Jake Long).
    Players deserve a slightly higher minimum salary floor to compensate for how long it takes them to reach free agency.

    In return, owners get:

    *Hard-slotting of draft picks. I’m not sure how sophisticated you want to get with this. I guess you could slot all the way through round 50, or maybe it’s only necessary to slot the first 10 rounds, which would still allow teams the flexibility to take high-risk gambles (high school kids with commitments, injury risks) in the later rounds and try to persuade them with money. If you slot all the way through 50, those won’t happen, because no elite high school kid will be persuaded out of his college commitment for a mandated $70K 12th round bonus. That’s why I’d only hard-slot the first, say, 10 rounds.
    It eliminates all the 11th hour haggling and gets these kids into minor league affiliates in June instead of late August.

    *The luxury tax becomes a dollar-for-dollar tax, similar to the NBA’s. (This is a concession to owners because it slightly depresses the FA market). Instead of the Yankees paying a 40% luxury tax bill, they pay a 100% lux tax bill on every dollar spent over the “soft” cap, which could be set somewhere between $140-175MM (the higher the figure, the better it is for the players; the lower the figure, the better it is for the other owners besides the Yankees). It’s a bit of problem that the Yankees were able to sign the top three free agents last offseason. Clearly the current tax isn’t enough of a deterrent.

    Here’s what I’d do with the archaic free-agent compensation system in the next CBA:

    http://www.athleticsnation.com/2009/1/15/725357/fixing-the-free-agent-comp

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    • Rob says:

      The issue isn’t the players, its the owners. 26 owners need to agree on anything for it to go through. Its a super super majority. The MLBPA would love for draft pick slotting. They already OKed a world wide draft last time. The owners couldn’t get together on what they wanted. The salary tax only affects the Yankees because they are so much ahead of everyone else no one else would join them. Move it down and suddenly the Mets, Red Sox, White Sox, Cubs, Angels, and Dodgers are throwing fits. And the reason the Yankees were able to sign so many is they had a lot of dead contracts coming up.

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    • Dan says:

      Along with the increased luxury tax, will there be minimum salary requirements for a team? Or can certain teams continue to take in more in luxury tax payments than they actually pay their players?

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      • Jacob Jackson says:

        Dan:

        Personally I’d be okay with a salary “floor”, but only if were spread over the course of five years. Otherwise, teams are forced to sign a few expensive free agents even when they would otherwise prefer to fully commit to the rebuilding phase.

        This is one of the NBA’s problems with their cap – teams are required to carry a payroll equivalent to 75% of the cap, or they are fined. For teams like Memphis (horribly GMing) and Oklahoma City (excellent GMing), this means they are thus REQUIRED to sign the scraps of the free-agent heap, or trade for bad contracts, to meet that salary floor, even in a non-contending year.

        An ideal salary floor – for both the NBA and MLB – would allow teams the flexibility to have a low payroll while rebuilding, but require them to invest heavily in the team when the opportunity for success arises.

        I’ll give you an example in each sport:

        *The A’s are not going to contend for a playoff berth next year. The best players in their system are all 21-23 years old, and their projected payroll next year, sans FA signings, is $35-40M. They should NOT be required to go out and buy second-tier free agents (the top ones wouldn’t come to Oakland anyway) just to meet a minimum salary floor, since those players will only take them from ~72 wins to ~76 wins. Those wins are irrelevant.

        *In the NBA, Oklahoma City should not be required to spend in a non-contention year, either. They are successfully building a core around Durant-Green-Westbrook-Harden, all under the age of 23.

        Both of those teams SHOULD be expected/required to dramatically increase payroll sometime over the next five years, when it would maximize their revenues and ability to make the playoffs.

        If MLB had a salary floor of $250M over five years, the A’s and other rebuilding teams like the Marlins could thus spend $40M over the next three as the prospects are rising through the system, then payroll would have to jump dramatically to $65M or more over the next 2-3 years as the team re-entered a contention phase. The team’s players reach the later years of arbitration, new free agents are signed – this policy would basically force teams to truly go for it and spend financially when they were contending.

        That’s the only way the owners should agree to a salary floor. They shouldn’t be forced to throw worthless money around that won’t help their team contend.

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      • B says:

        Obviously having a salary floor that’s too high presents a lot of problems. I just don’t understand how most owners can be ok with the Marlins total payroll being smaller than the revenue sharing money all the other teams give them. You would think a floor at the revenue sharing level (or maybe revenue sharing – the team’s contributions to revenue sharing) would be reasonable, and still be low enough not to present problems to anyone, really.

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  10. Jon says:

    I don’t know if the guys (especially pitchers) turning down multi-million dollar contracts are greedy, just stupid. I don’t think they realize the risk they are assuming by counting on their health.

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    • Matt Harms says:

      This cuts both ways, though, doesn’t it? The risk of injury in you pre-arb years is so crazy high that you’d be stupid not to get every penny out of your rookie contract. Otherwise, you could blow an ACL, tear a rotator cuff, etc and suddenly see yourself out of baseball in short order, kicking yourself for not negotiating a higher rookie bonus.

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  11. joker says:

    “It’s not jealousy, I’m just saying the players are getting offered more than a fair deal. The players ARE getting greedy, but we don’t realize it because in baseball terms, $300k sounds like a small amount of money.”

    No, the players aren’t even coming close to their actual value and why again should they get screwed out of money they will help earn for the owners? Again, the owners are billiionaires and these players end up producing on average FAR more revenue via wins than they actually get paid. Yet it’s the owners whom we feel sorry for because can’t pay for a DISCOUNTED player?

    How is this being greedy to get paid about 1/2 of what you’re actually worth. Because it’s “just a game” doesn’t cut it. Is anyone upset that record labels sign producers/no talent ass clowns for 7 figures? Is anyone upset Brad Pitt makes 20 million a movie? Why is creating value in baseball any different?

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    • Jay says:

      Actually, a huge majority of them end up producing zero wins.

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      • Andy S says:

        ^What Jay said, and furthermore, there is no “value” to a win, unless you can measure the amount of crowd that one win brings. In terms of the fangraphs method of valuing wins, it’s sort of a free-market averaging thing, and is only one of many ways to interpret a player’s value. So I hope you’re not basing your viewpoint on that.

        Your Brad Pitt analogy is a bad one. I don’t mind that Brad Pitt makes X million dollars on a movie. What I would mind would be if he wouldn’t do a movie because he wanted $10 million instead of $9 million, despite the fact that he really wanted to work on this movie and thinks it will be great and the deal makes sense for all parties.

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      • JH says:

        Each win at the major league level most definitely has a tangible value that teams can easily find out and make their decisions accordingly.

        And on average, draft picks return far and away the most win value for the money spent. Their high volatility doesn’t change that calculation. Teams take their volatility into account, and the current salary scale is based on a cost benefit analysis. A draft pick who signs for $1 million and returns nothing is a sunk cost. A draft pick who becomes a league average player for his club-controlled years under the current structure will make something like $15 million over those years and produce something like $50 million in value. A draft pick who signs for $1million and becomes an all-star ends up earning about 15-20% of what he’s worth pre-free agency.

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      • Andy S says:

        When you say $50 mil in value though, what do you really mean by that? Meaning he produced for you at the level of a $50 million player, based on the free market? Or that he brought 50 million dollars in revenue in? Even if he produces at the level of a $50 million player, that’s not worth 50 million dollars to the company unless it’s drawing in fans and selling on merchandising. If fans of a team will still go at an extremely high rate even if the team is mediocre (See: Cubs), then a win isn’t really worth that much. Furthermore, consider someone like Ken Griffey Jr., who was signed by the Mariners in the off season. He produced a lot of revenue in drawing fans, despite not producing revenue through wins, showing that, for a business side of things, wins aren’t the only (or even main) way to make money. If your goal is to win a division in a season, then that type of calculation is best. Otherwise, there are plenty of other factors to consider. It’s not straightforward, and certainly not linear.

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      • JH says:

        We may not know a concrete number, but we do know that A) baseball teams currently pay between $4-5 million/win, B) baseball teams make a profit doling out contracts of that magnitude meaning that their revenues are higher, and C) baseball teams that win more run at substantially higher profit margins than teams that don’t.

        Draft picks, on average, are a steal. That’s just true.

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  12. Steve C says:

    Keep the soft slotting system, just allow teams to trade for draft picks.

    If the Red Sox want to lose their minds and send Buchholz, Bowden, Ellsbury, and Lowrie to the Nationals so they can draft Strasburg, let them. If I am running a team like the nationals I will surely take two guys who project to be about 2-4 starters over one guy who MIGHT be an ace.

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  13. rfs1962 says:

    I just hate the hard-slotting idea. It takes the remaining leverage away from the players. It doesn’t account for the fact that the quality of the draft varies from year to year. It amazes me that fantasy-league auctions are more sophisticated and intelligent than the MLB draft — why not take a page out of their book?

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  14. Steve C says:

    Or allow for more incentive based contracts. Let players get paid for what they do, not what they might do.

    Hypothetical
    Strasburg signs for a bonus of 5MM which covers him for 4 years. In year 1 if he makes 10 starts he gets another 5, year two would take 15 starts, year 3 20 starts, year 4 would take 25. In this model he could net 25MM over 4 years.

    Could also used innings pitched, and through something in there about saves just in case he gets turned into a closer.

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  15. rizzo says:

    I wouldn’t call players selfish for not signing, but particularly in the case of college players it’s short-sighted and not very intelligent.

    Take the example of Aaron Crow – barring him signing in the next couple of weeks he’s blown 1.5 years of development time and pushed back his arbitration/free agency clocks similarly (as opposed to G. Beckham & Matusz for example). What’s Crow fighting over – a few hundred K? Wow, that’s really worth sacrificing a year or 2 off your prime money making years. He either doesn’t understand rudimentary economic principles or is getting incredibly poor advice.

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    • GhettoBear04 says:

      This is what a lot of us are trying to point out, not just purely griping about the player not signing. In a case like Purke for the Texas Rangers, he turned down $4 million as the 14th pick. He said going into it that he wanted Porcello-type money, but no one (outside of his family) views him as a Porcello-type talent.

      So, what does he have to do to just break even? He can come out in 2 years. To start, he needs to pitch for a relatively competitive college program without getting hurt or pitching so many innings that it negatively affects his draft status. Then, he has to perform at a level that is commensurate with a top 10 pick in the draft and hope that no holes show up in his mechanics/results while under a far greater microscope. Then, he has to find a team that’s willing to pay him closer to 4.5 million to make up for inflation over the next two years.

      Oh and he has to hope that a hard slotting system doesn’t get put into effect.

      All of this and he’s lost out on pitching for a team that he claims to be a big fan of, in an area that he’s comfortable with (he’s a Texas pitcher), and an organization that will move pitching prospects up aggressively.

      I’m not trying to villify him, I’m just pointing out that he’s taking a huge, huge risk that’s likely to not pay off for him.

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      • noseeum says:

        Yeah, this one was a dumb move. He should have signed. $4 million is life changing. Even if you break your arm tomorrow, you’ve made it. Taking on way too much risk.

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  16. noseeum says:

    I would be for a slot if the slots were determined as percentage of revenue, rather than fixed dollars. There’s no way $1 million is a fair number for a top 5 pick. It’s got to be tied to revenue, so as the revenue goes up the draft slots go up.

    @Jacob Jackson said: “But I think that concession – reducing the service time required for reaching free agency from six years to five – is actually TOO generous to the players and would be a sticking point for the owners.”

    How exactly is giving someone an additional year at fair market value “too generous.” Too generous would be paying someone more than they’re worth. Right now, the owners get a minimum of 6 years of discounts, plus a discount on draft day. Reducing that minimum to 5 is a mere pittance.

    The average major league career is less than 6 years. That’s not a coincidence. Veterans who are still serviceable get tossed on the scrap heap in order to replaced by new indentured servants. Pay is so heavily in the owners’ favor right now.

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    • Jacob Jackson says:

      Perhaps generous was the wrong word. What I mean to say is that it would be a greater concession than what the players’ union could offer in return, IMO, and that a more realistic/feasible compromise is allowing players to reach arbitration sooner.

      Clearly the owners will not simply give up the status quo of six years simply because the CBA works wildly in their favor. There would have to be an equitable concession made by the union, and I’m not sure they have anything quite as powerful as that to barter with.

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  17. Matt says:

    Everyone loves to vilify the players for asking for a reasonable share of the money. The signing bonuses and the yearly free agent salaries are salient numbers that we hear about over and over again in the media. Where is the outrage at how much teams (owners) milk out of their fans day after day, year after year?

    We all walk around with the caps, jerseys, tattoos, etc., of our favorite teams. We go to the games. We drink the beer. We spend hours of our time watching on TV so that advertising agencies can bombard us with their useless crap and further fill the pockets of the owners. We have deep, unbreakable loyalties to teams run by greedy bastards who are trying to steal as much money as they possibly can from us.

    Sports is a business. The athletes are the raw material, and their health and well-being matters to the execs only to the point that they continue to be money making machines. Bravo to every player who realizes that he or she is being used by the sports establishment and demands to be paid in full.

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    • Teej says:

      Well put.

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    • Bill says:

      Except it’s completely reasonable to be upset about draft picks demanding more money when they are completely unproven commodities. I would never begrudge a player getting their maximum value out of a free-agent contract, no matter what team it’s with.

      Draft picks however, are not quite the same. In many ways, it’s pretty foolish to hold out for more money with a first-round contract, and pretty understandable why fans hate it.
      A) It’s costing substantial opportunity cost in your prime years (basically, the earlier you get to free-agency, the better).
      B) It’s costing credibility in the eyes of fans & possible endorsements. Perfect example; Philadelphia fans still hate JD Drew to this day, because he wouldn’t sign with them in 1997. This is definitely a stretch of the imagination, but he certainly is less likely to get an endorsement in Philadelphia because of it.
      C) Pro sports are not free markets. Players are using the sports establishment for their own benefit just as much as owners. People who have the ability to throw 100 mph are a rare talent, and should be regarded as such, but it’s the MLB structure that allows them to be rewarded for that talent. Sure the owners get the majority of profits, but baseball players are essentially hired entertainers in a very specific field, despite being uniquely talented.

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      • Matt says:

        You’re mixing up two separate questions here.

        1) Is it smart for a draftee to hold out?
        2) Should we be upset with a draftee for holding out?

        I don’t have an answer to 1. For 2, no, we definitely should not be upset with a young player for using the only leverage available to him in a system that is stacked against him. If owners only had to pay for past pro performance, then every draftee would get the same contract: 0 dollars.

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    • rizzo says:

      Taking the hyperbole out of the equation, these guys are neither greedy villains nor honorable martyrs, I still fail to see the point of a protracted hold-out. If it’s about the money then how does an extended hold-out help? What benefits are there to squabbling over a few hundred K, particularly for college players that played in top conferences and could quickly hit the majors.

      Crow more than likely would be in the majors if he signed last year. Purke is taking a big gamble that TCU will care as much about his professional career as his future major league team and that he will develop enough to jump to what, the top 5 or so when he’s drafted again to make up for not having the roughly 3M Texas would have given him this year. Each time you re-enter the draft your bargaining power decreases as your options do so there’s also the risk that a team not as likely to go way over slot may select him.

      I don’t know, remove the emotion, boil it down to numbers – show me how holdouts help?

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  18. aj says:

    I take issue with the presumption that the service-time system is “stacked against” these players, which is your justification for being greedy before you’ve even proven yourself.

    1) boo hoo. (that’s my lack of pity for anyone playing a game for a living, which I will just get out of the way now.)

    2)Minor leaguers do no contribute anything to a franchise’s profits. So until they reach the bigs, this idea of getting a “cut” of the team’s profits is silly. They do get an appropriate cut… of the Mud Hens’ turnstyle.

    And for those suffering under “indentured servitude” in the bigs who might be contributing…

    3)The pre-arbitration service-time is hardly slave labor. Minimum wage is somewhere around 400k a year. I can’t resist: we pay our cops and firefighters and soldiers a FRACTION of that. To try to earn millions over those same three years before you even touch a regulation baseball is nothing short of greedy.

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  19. aj says:

    Also, why are we so concerned for the welfare of these top 50 picks and not the rest of the draft class? I mean… it was just a couple weeks ago during the trade frenzy that the “value” of draft picks paled in comparison to top-rated minor leaguers (see Victor Wang’s hardball times article.) So many of the best MLB players contributing to team’s coffers were not in the top 50.

    In other words… again, these exorbitant signing bonuses are not justified.

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  20. Pete says:

    If players today are greedy, it is the long history of MLB owners and their miserly and evil ways that made them so. Here is the list of offenses MLB has committed against it’s athletes:

    1. The Reserve Clause-This tied a player to his team for life, for all intents and purposes. A team could trade that player and pay them basically whatever they wanted and were under no obligation to pay them what they were worth.
    2. Collusion-After Free Agency became a reality, owners started collectively pissing their pants about how much they were paying FA talent. So, they all got together and agreed to stop paying high salaries for FAs. Whether MLB players deserve to make as much as they do is irrelevant…Fact of the matter is that what the owners did is, in every possible way, illegal. Andre Dawson ended up playing with a blank contract b/c he so badly wanted to escape Montreal, and yet no one would pay him.
    3. Blocking the formation of players unions for decades-This prevented players from having any sort of mechanism for resisting unfair business practices. Basically the players were told to shut up and take whatever poop-flavored lollipop the owners gave them.

    For more of the Bullshit Ownership Activities Greatest Hits Tour, go to wikipedia and read about figures such as Marge Schott, Charlie Finley, or Charles Comiskey. These were people who would literally do anything possible to put more money into their own pockets, whether they had to shit on their players to do it or not.

    If any of us working in our normal jobs was told that we couldn’t work there b/c we were black, or that we were tied to that company/organization forever at the total whim of that institution, or that we couldn’t leave and find a better job because all of the bosses of that field got together and said they wouldn’t pay what a person was worth b/c they weren’t making as much money as they liked, we’d all be fighting mad. Why? Because these are greedy, evil, reprehensible actions. If we were told to “shut up and take it” because being a lawyer/doctor/construction worker/dentist/teacher/professor/truck driver is a neat job and our salary was decent, we’d be fighting mad at that too.

    I understand that FA’s and draft picks are different. It is true that there are plenty of good business reasons not to sign untested, semi-fungible draft talent to top-dollar contracts. But don’t for a second call these largely middle-to-lower kids greedy for wanting a slightly bigger piece of the pie, especially when that pie is being given by a group who makes 100x what the player does and has a history of screwing that player and all of his peers in disgusting ways.

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