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Wednesday, September 05, 2018

Vladimir Guerrero Jr., Eloy Jimenez Are Latest Victims Of MLB Free Agency System That Needs Changing


But that’s not true. They had a say in their collectively bargained agreement. They didn’t prioritize getting the service time system changed. Even now, I’d say they have other priorities which would supersede the service time issue.

Jim Furtado Posted: September 05, 2018 at 12:57 PM | 38 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: cba, service time

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   1. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:03 PM (#5738972)
But that’s not true. They had a say in their collectively bargained agreement. They didn’t prioritize getting the service time system changed. Even now, I’d say they have other priorities which would supersede the service time issue.

The teams are explicitly prohibited from manipulating service time. The issue is they can always make up BS excuses, e.g. "He needs to work on his defense" to give themselves enough of a fig-leaf that arbitrators won't ding them.

This is the problem when good faith breaks down. Teams are supposed to make a good faith effort to put their best players on the field. But, they've completely reneged on that. Now you need a ton of micro-regulation which you wouldn't need if teams didn't abuse the rules.

The system needs to be replace by an age/years of professional contract standard. Say age 26 or 7 years since you first signed, whichever is later.
   2. JJ1986 Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:10 PM (#5738977)
Say age 26 or 7 years since you first signed, whichever is later.
I'd like something like 8 years for college players, 11 years for high-school/int'l amateurs. Otherwise, teams are not going to get enough control of the latter group.
   3. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:10 PM (#5738978)
Do other sports have this issue?
   4. Kiko Sakata Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:10 PM (#5738980)
They had a say in their collectively bargained agreement.


Who had a say? Not Eloy Jimenez or Vlad Guerrero, Jr., neither of whom have ever been a member of the MLBPA.
   5. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:12 PM (#5738981)
11 years for high-school/int'l amateurs


So Juan Soto is under control for another 8 years? Bryce Harper another 3 years?
   6. Zonk is One Individual Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:13 PM (#5738982)
I can't find a list of team MLBPA "player reps" - but I see that Curtis Granderson and Carlos Villanueva are the two "executive" reps; while Matt Harvey and Andrew Miller are the alternates.

One issue would seem to me to be that the players at the upper levels of MLBPA representation/negotiating - and you can go back and see guys like Jeremy Guthrie, etc in the same kind of roles - would seem to be the sort that are fairly removed from this problem.

Interestingly - I know Kris Bryant was voted Cubs team rep - so I imagine he'd have something to say about service time games... but it seems to me like - at least the guys players elect to sit at the table - the aggregate of the players seem less concerned about this than we do.

I.e., I have no doubt Vlad Jr and Eloy care... but I don't think they're even MLBPA members (or are they? I think both are on the 40 man, so maybe they are).

IOW - when I google around to find other team reps, I just don't see a whole lot of guys that I imagine being elected because they know/will advocate on these grounds (again, maybe Bryant is an exception - but then, the Cubs are a pretty young team).
   7. Jose is an Absurd Force of Nature Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:14 PM (#5738983)
Do other sports have this issue?


Other sports have other issues. The NFL contracts are a joke, the NHL and NBA have restricted free agency systems that keep contracts down, big time soccer goes too far in the other direction in my opinion with contracts being as meaningless as they are in the NFL only with the power completely on the players' side than the owners' side.
   8. Nasty Nate Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:15 PM (#5738984)
So Juan Soto is under control for another 8 years?
I guess the sentiment is that a player like Soto would be in the majors for all 8 of those years of control, rather than say 1+ year in the minors unnecessarily and than 6+ years in the majors. Of course, Soto himself is actually in the majors.
   9. JJ1986 Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:16 PM (#5738985)
Do other sports have this issue?
The NFL doesn't have a minor league and players on NBA rosters are still under NBA contract when they play for a farm team.
   10. JJ1986 Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:18 PM (#5738989)
So Juan Soto is under control for another 8 years?
Any age or first-contract-date system is going to keep Soto down for longer than he would under the current one. Age 26 would be 7 more years. You could allow free agency 6 years after a debut as well, but then that would keep guys like Vlad Jr. in the same situation.

edit:
Bryce Harper another 3 years?
I'm going to quickly change my mind and decide that I don't like my solution.
   11. Buck Coats Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:20 PM (#5738991)
Other sports don't let teams decide when a players "free agency clock" starts - when you're drafted you sign a contract, you become a free agent when the contract ends (with various restricted FA rules etc)

What if you redefined the service time calendar as "games from April through August" - ie make it so that September games don't count towards service time? Then "September callups" wouldn't be affected by this issue.

I would also change the entire service time system - make it like option years, where if you play 1 day in the majors, that counts as a "year" used up. So if you call up a player on April 1st and he plays all season long, or you call him up for the first time on August 15, either way that player gets 1 "year" of service time.
   12. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:20 PM (#5738993)

The teams are explicitly prohibited from manipulating service time. The issue is they can always make up BS excuses, e.g. "He needs to work on his defense" to give themselves enough of a fig-leaf that arbitrators won't ding them.

IANAL, but I looked into this at the beginning of the season, and I don't think there is anything in the CBA that "explicitly" prohibits teams from manipulating service time. I think the argument would be that a team doing so is not acting in the "spirit of the agreement" with respect to the CBA, not that they are violating a specific provision therein.

I don't think it's ever actually been tested in an arbitration hearing, because there's never been a case where there was smoking gun evidence that a team was playing service time games with a prospect, and as you said, teams can always fall back on some baseball-related pretense for making the decision.
   13. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:21 PM (#5738994)
I would appoint an independent panel of BTF members to dispassionately determine when a player is "ready" to play in the big leagues. His clock starts then!
   14. Zonk is One Individual Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:40 PM (#5739005)
The more I think about it, the more I think it's probably pretty obvious why the MLBPA - as a union - doesn't really seem all that interested in pressing arbitration service time issues or negotiating this down.

It's damn hard to get a breakdown on MLBPA service time (i.e., of the 1200 members, how many have > 6 years vs fewer?).

However - not to go all OT-organized labor - even if the split is 50/50 (and my napkin math just sampling a few teams says it's probably not), it's probably important to remember that very few players hit this crack.... and the union's charge is to increase compensation/conditions/etc for all its members.

In other unions - seniority rules are also applied in somewhat similar manners (i.e., doesn't matter how good you are - there's a limit to how fast you can go from apprentice to journeyman).

Much as the fans are left out in the cold - fans don't care about this stuff, they just want to see the best players ASAP - I suspect that it's just more complicated for the MLBPA as an organization...
   15. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:43 PM (#5739010)
I would appoint an independent panel of BTF members to dispassionately determine when a player is "ready" to play in the big leagues. His clock starts then!
Ooh, can we put Ray on it? "I never saw him make a great play. He made some average ones, that any fielder would have made, and I don't see why my fellow panelists are saying he's ML-ready."
   16. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 01:58 PM (#5739020)
I mean, I'll be in charge of it, but yes, I think Ray could be a valuable contributor. I think monthly meetings would be sufficient, and I propose to MLB a budget of $30k per meeting for time, expenses and such.
   17. Rally Posted: September 05, 2018 at 02:00 PM (#5739023)
So Juan Soto is under control for another 8 years? Bryce Harper another 3 years?


Not sure where Harper fits in - he went to college for one year. Kind of amazing to think about for a guy drafted at 17. I think Harper got his GED two years early or something like that, and entered the draft a year earlier than he would have if he had graduated with his class. I doubt everyone can do that, but with such a rule I'm sure the top prospects would all do a year of community college and then enter the draft.

You'd have to adjust the rules to how the smart agents will interpret them. So instead of 8/11, something like 11 years after your high school class graduates. Then what about the international players who sign at 16? Who defines what HS class they are in? At that point you might as well simplify and go with age.

That will surely change the incentives for prospects to fudge their birthdates, although thanks to more rigorous documentation standards that problem has (probably) disappeared anyway.
   18. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 02:10 PM (#5739027)
Maybe they should just start negotiating this into contracts. Can they do that?

Team: We offer you $20M
Top draft pick: I want to be a free agent in 2026 no matter what
Team: In that case, $15M
Top draft pick: Deal
   19. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 05, 2018 at 02:48 PM (#5739050)
I mean, I'll be in charge of it, but yes, I think Ray could be a valuable contributor. I think monthly meetings would be sufficient, and I propose to MLB a budget of $30k per meeting for time, expenses and such.

Don't negotiate for us. You just sold us several million short.

We should each be compensated like a corporate director, say $75,000 per year, plus $5,000 per meeting for expenses.
   20. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 03:37 PM (#5739105)
I think MLB would gladly pay that much to a blue ribbon panel of elderly blowhards, but probably not us. I'll do it just for the junket.

Also, I have a natural aversion to conference rooms, so I move that we hold most meetings at Peter Luger's. I don't think we require video evidence ... a cursory look at our smartphones should suffice.
   21. PreservedFish Posted: September 05, 2018 at 03:44 PM (#5739115)
Actually it would be amusing to allow the teams to pitch why we shouldn't declare their prospects "ready."

"Hi, I'm former All-Star Greg Vaughn. Here's why I think MacKenzie Gore isn't quite ready for the major leagues yet."
   22. What did Billy Ripken have against ElRoy Face? Posted: September 05, 2018 at 04:06 PM (#5739138)
Greg Vaughn at Peter Luger's would probably put a pretty big dent in the budget.
   23. Cleveland (need new name) fan Posted: September 05, 2018 at 05:48 PM (#5739220)
The system needs to be replace by an age/years of professional contract standard. Say age 26 or 7 years since you first signed, whichever is later.


I am unclear how an age system would be implemented. Assuming the season ends on Oct 30 and the season begins at the start of spring training on Feb 20, what does Fa at 26 mean?

What happens if your birthdate is

Nov 1 - Dec 31 Are they a FA immediately/on their birthdate or do they have to play through the end of the next season?
Jan 1 - Feb 19 Does the calendar year matter or is this the same answer as above?
Feb 20 - Oct 30: assume they become a FA at the end of the season

Whatever way you implement it, you will screw a portion of the players with some players becoming FAs very quickly after their birthdate and others having to play full age 26 seasons. So is this any fairer than having a few players having their FA delayed by a year? While the birthdate method is random about which players are screwed, there will be a lot more of them screwed then the current method.
   24. A triple short of the cycle Posted: September 05, 2018 at 07:01 PM (#5739269)
Remember when Bud Selig conveyed that blue ribbon panel to solve the A's stadium issue? Good times.
   25. Textbook Editor Posted: September 05, 2018 at 07:09 PM (#5739277)
Isn't there a concern that if you make them FAs after, say, 4 years of MLB service time that you will see even GREATER manipulation of service time?

On the flip side, if the owners did a Charlie Finley-esque alteration of how FA is granted, it would likely screw players in unintended ways.

For example, say the owners lopped off Year 5 & 6 arbitration years--now you'd be a FA after 3 years of team control and 1 year of arbitration. Well, for starters there'd be a lot of manipulation of the service time--way more than there is now. And then, you'd have some unintended consequences (I think): a large pool of players available every year who basically were paid $1 million< for 3 years and then maybe $3-9 million for 1 year... Now some of these guys will no doubt be Mike Trout and command a lot of $. But some will be like Jackie Bradley Jr., who has a complex value and--were he a FA after his year 4, he would have come off earning $3.6 million and slashing 245/323/402. That + his defensive numbers got him a $6.1 million 2018 salary, and while it's possible/likely he'd have done better on the FA market, I'm decidedly *not* sure he would have parlayed that into all that much more $ and years--especially if the pool of players out there was much larger than it is now (which it would be).

It's an odd situation in that if you have ALL players as FAa every year, it would almost certainly depress salaries in the aggregate (while certainly benefitting a number of players/teams). But I also think if you bring down the service time needed to reach FA you'll just see much more manipulation of service time + some possible unintended consequences dragging on salaries.

There's a push-pull dynamic here that I will admit is not the greatest but... All it will take for the pendulum to swing back to cagey, cheap veterans is for one team to capitalize not on kids but on underpriced veteran castoffs that have hidden skills and are basically as cheap (and can be gotten on short-term deals). Win a WS that way and some teams will take a leap into those waters to try to emulate the "veteran grit" winning strategy instead of the "play cheap kids" strategy...
   26. Hank Gillette Posted: September 05, 2018 at 11:45 PM (#5739511)
Isn't there a concern that if you make them FAs after, say, 4 years of MLB service time that you will see even GREATER manipulation of service time?


That’s why minor league service should be included. That would totally end the leaving major-league ready players in the minors for service manipulation.
   27. zachtoma Posted: September 06, 2018 at 03:01 AM (#5739526)


That’s why minor league service should be included. That would totally end the leaving major-league ready players in the minors for service manipulation.


Nah, then you're just incentivizing teams to rush their top prospects so they get the max Major League time out of them. It's a tough problem, but I'm not convinced that 19 year-olds spending an extra couple months in the minors is really that big a deal. People are awfully quick to make judgments about who's "ready" and who's not when the only way to tell for sure is after they've been in the majors for awhile.
   28. Rally Posted: September 06, 2018 at 08:16 AM (#5739553)
I don’t think any team is going to call up a 19 year old to hit .215 when they also have a .240 hitting 27 year old non prospect for a bench job. If a 19 year old is good enough to contribute, wouldn’t you want to see him up?
   29. Jim Furtado Posted: September 06, 2018 at 09:05 AM (#5739589)
Who had a say? Not Eloy Jimenez or Vlad Guerrero, Jr., neither of whom have ever been a member of the MLBPA.

The MLBPA only cares about its membership. Minor league players aren't members. Amateur players aren't members. What irks me is, they have gone out of their way to screw amateur players and have turned a blind eye to the economic plight of minor leaguers. Of course, what they didn't envision was, teams wouldn't put the money saved into major league salaries. Instead, teams have put the money into the pocket of owners and, because young players are even cheaper now, have started squeezing the salaries of mediocre veterans.

At the minimum MLBPA should look to increase wages for minor leaguers, not in altruism, but for the economic benefit of their shrinking middle class. Of course, the downside for amateurs is the increased minor league player cost will most likely lead to smaller draft classes. At the same time, the union needs to push for a bigger share of the economic pie by pushing for pay increases for controllable and early arbitration players. I was shocked that minimum pay increased so little in the current CBA.

In any case, the MLBPA leadership needs to do a much, much better job of long-term strategy because they've gotten killed in the last couple of CBAs.

[Slightly edited. Jim]
   30. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2018 at 10:00 AM (#5739620)
At the minimum MLBPA should look to increase wages for minor leaguers, not in altruism, but for the economic benefit for their shrinking middle class. Of course, the downside for amateurs is the increased minor league player cost will most might lead to the shrinking of yearly draft classes. At the same time, the union needs to push for a bigger share of the economic pie by pushing for pay increases for controllable and early arbitration players. I was shocked that minimum pay increased so little in the current CBA.

Right, but be careful what you wish for. As you say, if minor leaguers get a lot more expensive, that would probably lead to a shrinking on the minors.

The MLB players would probably benefit from this. If there are 3 milb teams per franchise, rather than 5 or 6, there are going to be fewer mediocre players available to push major leaguers out of jobs.
   31. Steve Parris, Je t'aime Posted: September 06, 2018 at 10:10 AM (#5739624)
Right, but be careful what you wish for. As you say, if minor leaguers get a lot more expensive, that would probably lead to a shrinking on the minors.

Is that really such a bad thing? With so many of the players being filler, I think orgs could stand to lose an affiliate or two without compromising development for the players who have a legit shot at a future.
   32. PreservedFish Posted: September 06, 2018 at 10:16 AM (#5739628)
It is curious how large the minor leagues are.
   33. snapper (history's 42nd greatest monster) Posted: September 06, 2018 at 11:00 AM (#5739667)
Is that really such a bad thing? With so many of the players being filler, I think orgs could stand to lose an affiliate or two without compromising development for the players who have a legit shot at a future.

Depends on who you are. For the unheralded prospects, yes, it's bad. Especially for the Latin Americans who make up a fair bit of the filler. The shitty milb wages, with the chance to hit it big, are likely a better economic opportunity than anything they have at home.

For the MLB players and the top prospects, it's great. Less competition. Less cheap labor to push you out of a job when you slip below 1 WAR.

For baseball as a whole? Probably not too bad. Though you may lose the occasional Mike Piazza, Jose Ramirez type that way outperforms expectations.
   34. Never Give an Inge (Dave) Posted: September 06, 2018 at 01:28 PM (#5739942)

Losing a bunch of minor league teams would be bad for all the people who actually like to go to minor league baseball games.
   35. SoSH U at work Posted: September 06, 2018 at 01:46 PM (#5739963)
Losing a bunch of minor league teams would be bad for all the people who actually like to go to minor league baseball games.


And the communities that built them ballparks. And the players who get to spend a few years as professional ballplayers.

Whatever way you implement it, you will screw a portion of the players with some players becoming FAs very quickly after their birthdate and others having to play full age 26 seasons. So is this any fairer than having a few players having their FA delayed by a year? While the birthdate method is random about which players are screwed, there will be a lot more of them screwed then the current method.


There is no possible way to develop a system that doesn't benefit some and disadvantage others, because players develop at varying paces and the opportunity for promotion exists throughout the season, but free agency is only offered between seasons.

   36. John Northey Posted: September 06, 2018 at 10:50 PM (#5740339)
The free agent issue affects a very small subset of players - just the potential super-stars. 1 or 2 a year, lets even guess at 10 and push it. Up the minimum salary and you affect nearly every last player in their first few seasons in the majors (obvious exceptions such as Japanese league and the odd Cuban). The union, if it really cared about the average player right now would fight for a $1 mil minimum salary. That would be over $400k extra to each rookie, scrub, 7th reliever, etc. over a season. Also work on making the pension hit maximum at an earlier stage with bigger benefits for guys who just reach for 1 day even. That is how a real union works. Don't just fight for the big guns who now have to wait an extra year to make 9 figures. Help the others who will never see a 3 year deal, let alone a 7 year one.
   37. Rally Posted: September 07, 2018 at 09:21 AM (#5740393)
Especially for the Latin Americans who make up a fair bit of the filler. The shitty milb wages, with the chance to hit it big, are likely a better economic opportunity than anything they have at home.


Interesting question. For the ones who don't get a significant bonus and play a few years in the DSL or low minors, they might be making more money than they would working a job at home (but if in the U.S., also paying more for rent and food). When they reach the limits of their baseball ability, are they better off than their non-baseball playing cousins who spent their late teens learning work skills instead of trying to hit curveballs?

The union, if it really cared about the average player right now would fight for a $1 mil minimum salary.


And make sure it gets adjusted for inflation.
   38. Rally Posted: September 07, 2018 at 09:32 AM (#5740398)
For baseball as a whole? Probably not too bad. Though you may lose the occasional Mike Piazza, Jose Ramirez type that way outperforms expectations.


It depends on how far the minors would theoretically contract. Say you are down to 2 farm teams per MLB franchise, one for high school/foreign signings/first year out of college. The other for more experienced prospects. I would assume the draft would be drastically reduced, maybe 10 rounds. Is there a place in baseball for 13th round pick Albert Pujols?

I'm sure we would see more independent leagues (but probably not enough to replace all the subsidized leagues). Since Albert hit from day 1 in the minors and dominated MLB in only his second year as a pro, I could see his path as playing with an indy league, dominating, and getting signed by an organization. But his fate could also be that after going undrafted, he gets a job in a hardware shop making spare sets of keys. His only connection to baseball would be encouraging random customers to take their dads to ballgames so they can reconnect with their corazons.

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