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Wednesday, January 13, 2021

What if every MLB player was a free agent every year? How extreme 45-year-old idea would create baseball chaos

Professional baseball players are famously not fond of the peripatetic lives they live in the minors, and of course those who settle in as journeyman at the highest level continue to endure the regular upheavals of uprooting their lives each winter and spring (albeit with better compensation and working conditions than those of minor leaguers). Few relish this sort of existence, and it becomes even more unsatisfying as players start their own families.

As such, players under this “one and done” system would probably be especially amenable to re-upping with their teams from the season prior. Add in the possible desire for ownership to achieve some semblance of carryover, and you’ve got incentives on both sides to keep the relationship going. This won’t always be the case, of course. A few wandering spirits may relish the idea of new places and new faces each season, and some players of course want to get out of their current situations. For the most part, though, players prefer to focus on their craft rather than devote themselves to the tedium of housing searches and change of address forms.

The other consequence of all this is that teams other than the incumbent squad might typically have to pay a premium in order to lure a player away (assuming his old team wants him back). That, in turn, means that year-to-year player turnover might not be quite as extreme as you’d think. Note, however, that this wouldn’t really dampen the intensity of the offseason. The unknown creates the intrigue, and each player’s status is indeed unknown until he inks that contract to return to his former team or packs up for points north, south, east, or west. One-year contracts make the unknown a truly dominating presence in the MLB offseason, and even if star players don’t sign elsewhere as often as you’d expect, the possibility that they could keep things taut.

RoyalsRetro (AG#1F) Posted: January 13, 2021 at 09:35 PM | 4 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: free agency

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   1. Rally Posted: January 14, 2021 at 12:05 PM (#5999727)
It would be just like a non-keeper, auction style fantasy league.
   2. Walt Davis Posted: January 14, 2021 at 04:40 PM (#5999788)
The owners were never going to agree to get rid of the reserve clause. A team keeps exclusive rights to a player until, what, he fulfills the rookie requirements, then the guy is an FA every year? That was never going to happen. And once that doesn't happen, clearly the players are not going to agree to something like 6 years of team control then best of luck.

The article says Miller was worried because how could he argue against "freedom." Easy ... freedom includes the right to enter a long-term contract. MLBPA should love earlier free agency but, in the FA merket ... what rational reason would a team have to negotiate a limit on how long it could sign a player for? You're the Yankees and 21-yo Mike Trout is a FA, you're gonna sign that guy for 10 years. Certainly the last 30-odd years of actual FA have shown us that teams prefer multi-year contracts where paymetns are spread out even when they don't expect production to be. If teams preferred contracts like 1/$50 and 2/$80 for Betts et al, that's what we'd see.

I don't know if the article mentions it but most obviously the trade market collapses. As hinted above, I don't have a clue how you develop young talent in this model, you certainly don't hand out big bonuses to draft picks. If we re-run the experiment, you either need college baseball to become a big thing or independent minor-leagues that can make real money. What happens to attendance if Ernie Banks, Reggie Jackson, Tony Gwynn, Derek Jeter are potentially changing teams every year?

And no way the owners want to re-run that history. In 1977 NL, the Reds, Dodgers and Phils all drew 2.5-3 M but no other team topped 1.5 M and two were under 1 M. In 2019 NL, the Marlins were under 1 M (amazingly) but even the Pirates made it to 1.49 M and the Dodgers nearly made it to 4 M, the Cards at 3.5 and the Rox to nearly 3 (them folks is crazy). They set revenue records nearly every year and they've seen franchise values go through the roof.
   3. puck Posted: January 14, 2021 at 10:36 PM (#5999869)
and the Rox to nearly 3 (them folks is crazy).

It's a nice place to get a beer and a burger and hang out with friends.
   4. Karl from NY Posted: January 15, 2021 at 03:47 PM (#5999977)
what rational reason would a team have to negotiate a limit on how long it could sign a player for?

NBA teams agreed on a max contract length. What it does is reduce the impact of the winner's curse. Whichever team wins the bidding for a free agent is the team that most overestimated his value. So they limit themselves to doing that for 4 or 5 years max instead of 10+.

MLBPA should love earlier free agency

They don't, because they like keeping younger players cost-controlled, for more money to be available for the veterans. The free agency threshold never gets reduced in any CBA because who that would serve to benefit are future players who are not yet union members and voters on that CBA. The 6 year threshold isn't some coincidence or historical artifact, it's because that's roughly the median years of service among union voters, such that there are as many or more players beyond it who have nothing to gain by reducing it.

Almost every union votes more pay to the more senior members this way - they have no reason to benefit incoming workers who aren't in the union yet.

The agents certainly want earlier free agency, and that's who you hear that from, not MLBPA.

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