As The Pendulum Swings

The longer this off-season goes, the hungrier I get for Spring Training.  The inane asking prices that some of today’s free agents are asking for is getting out of control.  I believe in the free market as much as anyone, but sometimes a little self-restraint needs to be implemented…on both sides.

The pendulum always swings both ways, and for way too many years the owners had all of the control over the lives of the players…the people the fans were paying to come watch play the greatest game on this planet.  Because Curt Flood dared to go up against the establishment and make a stand against Baseball’s Reserve Clause, the pendulum stopped and ever so slightly started to swing in the other direction.  But it wasn’t until Andy Messersmith and Dave McNally, with the help of MLB arbitrator Peter Seitz, got the pendulum going fully in the other direction, and ended baseball’s reserve clause and free agency ensued.  And it hasn’t stopped yet, even with the collusion years under Ueberroth notwithstanding.

I do not believe free agency got out of hand until Kevin Brown, and the dawning of the $100M baseball contract.  Scott Boras wanted to make an impact and he was using Kevin Brown (a very good pitcher but not a nice person) as that catalyst.  Boras had the Dodgers bidding against themselves to the point that their 7 year $105M offer was $40M greater than the next bidder, the SD Padres.  It was emblematic of the ineptness of the ownership/management group that Fox put together to run LA Dodger baseball operations.

The Alex Rodriguez contract was another statement contract made by Scott Boras.  All he needed was one owner to buy into his propaganda, and he found one in Tom Hicks.  Boras likes to bypass the GM’s and go straight to the owner.  The Nationals’ Ted Lerner is Boras’ current best friend.  Boston’s Dave Dombrowski loves the big transaction and is unafraid of taking on large contracts, but he does not appear to be budging on 5 years for JD Martinez.  Boras is not going to accept that without getting an audience with John Henry and trying to get that 6thyear.  How can anyone really believe that Jake Arrieta is worth 5-6 years with a $25M AAV going into his 32 year old season?  But someone will blink.  There is no question that Boras represents his clients very well, but make no mistake Scott Boras needs to stay in the spotlight for himself, and he is doing his best to hold the free agency market as hostage.  The owners have to look at the results of the bulk of Boras’ contracts and learn that it may be best to walk away.  They have to tell Boras to talk with their baseball operations people and not try to go around them.  Sure Scherzer was a great deal for the Nats, and Strasburg looks like it could be.  But what about Prince Fielder, Shin Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Wei-yin Chen, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Davis.  GM’s and owners have to have a publication for Boras to show him all of the bad deals he has negotiated with respect to the organizations.

But it isn’t all Scott Boras’, or the other agents’ and players’ fault.  MLB has a lot to answer for.  Jeffrey Loria was a bad owner, there is no doubt.  I put him on par with Marge Schott, Fox, and Frank McCourt as the worst owners in MLB history.  However, Rob Manfred and the owners should never have let the Jeter group purchase the Marlins, especially under the terms that Jeter’s compensation is directly tied to profit.  Just like with McCourt there is not nearly enough liquidity with that group to put together a ML team on the field.  I am not at all opposed to making a profit, and every team needs to work towards that goal in order to continue to exist.  However one of the best sports owners in my lifetime has been Jerry Buss.  He had no problem whatsoever spending money on the best players he could sign within the rules, and still won.

There are 30 teams, all with various degrees of financial stability.  There is no question that the luxury tax threshold is in fact a salary cap.  And in my mind, there is no question that without the luxury tax, there are owners that would not be able to help themselves and fly right by the $197M threshold.  Currently there are two teams above the luxury tax threshold; Red Sox and Nationals. Neither team seems concerned about increasing their salaries even more.  The Dodgers, Yankees, and Giants are restrained from going past the $197M “cap”.  They are all within $17M of that mark, and one elite FA will take them over the threshold.  The Dodgers can afford Darvish and so can the Yankees.  But both are trying self-control.  The Giants could have afforded Jay Bruce at what the Mets paid, and can afford Lorenzo Cain, but they too are showing control.  Before free agency hit, the one player/team matchup that made more sense than any other was Lorenzo Cain to the Giants.  But Cain will absolutely take them above the luxury tax threshold, and their management shows no inclination to do so…yet.

Is JDM really worth 5 times what Jay Bruce is?  In Scott Boras’ world he is.  When will the owners wake up and grow a pair and tell Boras to make a reasonable offer or go away?  When will MLB insist that when Boras claims that X number of teams are offering player Y $$, that they be allowed to call the other teams and ask without being accused of collusion?  I know, I know, never going to happen.

Below is a table of teams and their current (as of 1/11/18) luxury tax tracker per COTS.  To me the problem is not the teams with salaries above the $160M level as much as it is the teams below $115M, and especially those below $100M.

 

Red Sox

Nationals

Dodgers

Giants

Yankees

Mariners

Angels

Cubs

Astros

Blue Jays

Cardinals

Indians

Mets

Rockies

Orioles

Tigers

Dbacks

Braves

Royals

Pirates

Marlins

Twins

Rays

Reds

Padres

Brewers

White Sox

Phillies

A’s

$207,499,600

$201,483,976

$182,688,886

$182,362,133

$180,994,600

$172,705,314

$171,496,980

$160,351,742

$157,933,886

$157,055,314

$156,479,750

$150,264,265

$149,505,339

$136,669,599

$136,569,600

$136,489,600

$133,002,933

$124,734,484

$123,786,267

$115,961,267

$115,730,791

$111,086,267

$102,469,600

$99,726,743

$96,340,433

$91,517,933

$85,786,267

$85,544,600

$76,427,933

 

If you drill down into the individual teams’ salaries in the luxury tax tracker, you will see a majority of teams with only few players under contract and a lot of arbitration and pre-arbitration players.  This year the Phillies had 2 players under contract; Odubel Herrera and Cameron Rupp totaling $8,150,000 for the two.  They have since signed Carlos Santana, Tommy Hunter, and Pat Neshek at about $100M total obligation and $35M AAV.  This seems to be where the roster structure may be headed.  A couple of high priced elite (or deemed to be elite) players, with the remainder of the roster made up of young controllable players.

I agree that spending 20-25% of your salary base on one player is not sustainable.  Scott Boras, the other agents, and elite players are killing the golden goose.  I am waiting for that agent and player who are going to say, I want to play for the Pirates or Reds or Royals (or some other mid-market team) and am willing to take a big discount so the team can get other like-minded players who recognize that $75M-$100M is more money than they could possibly need, and anything above that is strictly ego. I know I am dreaming, but for the sake of the game somebody needs to step up.  It wasn’t Greinke, and it’s not going to be Harper or Machado.  But I do think you saw some of that with Jansen and Turner last year accepting less to play for the Dodgers.

At the same time, when is MLB going to tell the bottom feeder teams that there is now a salary floor.  Why keep giving the A’s competitive balance funds if they are not going to use it on salaries?  MLB is giving each team a $50M influx from Disney, but with that infusion should come a commitment from the teams to spend it on players’ salaries. There are always going to be haves and have nots, but not to the level that exists in MLB.

If teams cannot afford to be competitive they should not be in MLB.  If teams are more interested in generating more of a profit than in putting a competitive team on the field then they should not be MLB owners.  If they cannot generate any profit, they need to sell to someone who can.  What do fans of the A’s or Marlins, or Rays, or Brewers, have to look forward to? Beingcompetitive (not necessarily winning) once a decade?  How sad is it for the fans of the Reds and Pirates, two of the longest tenured and storied franchises in MLB history that have to struggle to put competitive teams on the field?  Sure the Royals were in the WS twice in 2014 & 2015, but when was the last time before that when they were relevant?  When will they be relevant again?  The Cubs and Astros both did a tear down, but are now spending north of $150M and are very willing to go higher.  The Phillies and White Sox have done a tear down and will again be competitive and have the ability and will to spend.  The Phillies have already committed $100M this year as a team that is still not ready to be competitive, but will spend much more next year and again be a force in the NL by at least 2020.

Instead of expansion, maybe MLB should simply consider relocation only.  Maybe Oakland, or Miami, or Tampa Bay do not deserve teams.  Maybe other cities have the fan base that will support a team.  Maybe those City Councils should only negotiate with teams who are willing to commit to a minimum salary level and minimum community involvement.  Any negotiation to stadium funding should be tied to a fixed salary commitment.  Why should the City partner in building a stadium if the owners do not have the ability or will to commit to a competitive salary base?  If MLB continues to allow ownership groups like Jeter’s to buy teams without the ability for competitive salary levels, then maybe they should be forced to guarantee any loan or rent that the City has in place for their stadiums.   Why should Yu Darvish not be “allowed” to sign with the Dodgers because it is somehow unfair to Oakland or Miami or Tampa Bay?  Maybe it’s time for another Peter Seitz to become an arbiter and govern over the next CBA and make the pendulum stop right in the middle.

 

 

This article has 40 Comments

  1. Totally agree with your post. There is a need for a floor to spending to force teams to put a major league product on the field. My issue with signing Kevin Brown $105 M was that they had just traded Mike Piazza because he wanted $90 M! Piazza was flipped to the Mets and goes into the Hall of Fame wearing the wrong hat! They did get Sheffield and others back in the deal and Sheff had 3 remarkable but largely forgotten seasons with LA. I still have a lot of Piazza gear but have avoided buying much more of other players as I thought he was a Dodger for life, if there is such a thing in today’s game.

  2. Rumor: The Yankees have offered Yu Darvish $160 million /7 years and have allegedly given him 48 hours to accept.

    Allegedly!

    Totally a rumor!

  3. My last two posts didn’t go up for some reason. Why do we not see performance incentives written in these mega-contracts? If Boras had me sold on anything he’s selling it’d have to be backed in writing that the job will be done . But just somebody so and so showing up ain’t cutting mustard. Big beef for big bucks in writing.

  4. The advantage of incentives for me is that players could earn big bucks in their prime and not past their prime. Give players a base guarantee that ranges from $500K to $3M and the incentive tied to WAR.

  5. Here is an article by SB Nation’s Marc Normandin on The past, present, and future of MLB Collusion.
    Peter Ueberroth is not a name you hear very often these days. He kept busy after stepping down as commissioner of Major League Baseball in 1989, returning to the Olympic organizing that helped establish his profile on the American sports scene in the first place, and even ran for governor of California in 2003. He never did have a second chance in baseball — and with good reason. But you will be hearing about him as the 2018 season approaches, and likely for years to come.

    That’s because we’re talking baseball collusion again.

    The Collective Bargaining Agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Union barred collusion in 1968 with the writing of this simple sentence:

    Players shall not act in concert with other Players and Clubs shall not act in concert with other Clubs
    With the rules on the book less than two decades, Ueberroth, in his role as MLB commissioner, encouraged the worst tendencies of ownership in the free agency world, leading to three offseasons of collusion — in 1985, 1986, and 1987 — against the game’s free agents to limit salaries by eliminating competition between teams.

    With the MLB offseason at a complete standstill, both before the trade of Giancarlo Stanton and the posting of Shohei Ohtani and after those deals were completed, the word “collusion” is once again coming into use in the baseball world. ”Really, the offseason hasn’t ‘developed’ at all,” wrote Zack Moser in Baseball Prospectus’ Wrigleyville in early January. Moser went on to say:

    “The two perceived roadblocks that took the form of Shohei Ohtani and Giancarlo Stanton have been cleared for a month now; the Winter Meetings have come and gone, and the biggest signings so far have all been for relief pitchers. There is little on the rumor front to report, little evidence from which to draw any conclusions about the eventual destinations of Arrieta and Yu Darvish, of Alex Cobb or J.D. Martinez, of Eric Hosmer or Lorenzo Cain. The best free agents are still available for any team willing to make a move toward improving their squad for 2018 and beyond.”
    While MLB owners were punished — and eventually had to pay up — for conspiring against players in the 1980s, the specter of collusion has clearly not left the sport, even though Ueberroth left his post in the aftermath of the scandal. These initial instances of collusion in Major League Baseball taught ownership and MLB’s commissioner’s valuable lessons about effectively and legally hoarding profits. It also foreshadowed issues that would weaken the MLBPA’s power over the following decades, bringing them into the situation they’re in today, up against a normalized, “legalized” form of collusion they can do almost nothing to stop because they agreed to exist alongside it.

    An understanding of what collusion has been in the past is necessary to see what might be going on in today’s game, because it appears as if MLB’s ownership learned from those mistakes made by Ueberroth, bringing them to these far more inconspicuous approaches to limiting the payouts baseball players are seeing.

    Ueberroth’s proto-Moneyball
    In the eight years before Ueberroth took over as commissioner, MLB’s profits tripled to $625 million according to John Helyar’s Lords of the Realm and then increased further as the age of the lucrative television deal dawned. The players were finally getting a real cut of that money thanks to the implementation of salary arbitration and owners who spent actual money on free agents. Ueberroth, who had become Time’s Man of the Year for his decisions that made the 1984 Olympics a financial success under his watch, demanded the teams put a stop to that, telling owners they were “damned dumb” for being fine with losing money in pursuit of a World Series.

    “Let’s say I sat each of you down in front of a red button and a black button,” he said at one early meeting. “Push the red button and you’d win the World Series but lose $10 million. Push the black button and you would make $4 million and finish somewhere in the middle.”

    He pauses to look around. “The problem is, most of you would push the red one.”

    Ueberroth chided them for checking their business sense at the door. “You are so damned dumb.”
    Spreading his concern that television money would soon dry up, Ueberroth didn’t just get the owners to agree to limit contracts. He also confronted the general managers of each team to tell them to stop handing out long-term contracts. In Ueberroth’s mind, he was probably doing Braves’ owner Ted Turner a favor by making sure the GMs knew there were limits in place. Whether it was baseball — the $10 million Bruce Sutter contract with lucrative deferred payments stands out as one that baffled fellow owners and execs in 1984 — or his free-spending time at the helm of World Championship Wrestling (WCW) a decade later, Turner had relatively fewer worries than the commissioner when it came to spending on his properties to improve them.

    To Ueberroth, this “red button” approach was an unqualified negative, as it could spur too much competition among ownership and cost them all money.

    Three years of collusion
    The result of Ueberroth inserting himself into the day-to-day business of each of the teams was a three-year run of collusion in MLB. This isn’t suspected collusion, either: this is “MLB owners were punished for their actions from three consecutive years” collusion.

    There were 35 free agent players during the offseason that followed the 1985 campaign. Of those 35, four had new teams in 1986, and those four players only had new homes because their old teams didn’t want them any longer. Kirk Gibson, who had batted .287/.364/.518 in 1985 (good for a 140 OPS+), did not receive a contract offer from any club besides the Tigers, the team he was with in ‘85, and he wasn’t the only top player in that situation. Even more curious is Gibson did have potential suitors in the Royals … until the first ownership meetings of the offseason were held, and suddenly Gibson was down to one option again.

    While the owners did get in trouble for this when arbitrator Thomas T. Roberts ruled in favor of the players, that didn’t happen until late 1987. This means what was eventually known as “Collusion II” happened the season after Gibson and the other 34 free agents were colluded against.

    In the winter of 1986-87, once again, just four free agents switched teams. Stars like Andre Dawson returned to their previous teams, and in Dawson’s case, took a pay cut: this despite a strong 1986 campaign, too. Three-fourths of the offseason’s free agents signed one-year deals. The average major-league salary declined for the first time since free agency came to exist, dropping by 16 percent, and, as Helyar wrote in Lords of the Realm, MLB’s profits rose by 15 percent at the same time.

    The MLBPA filed “Collusion II” before “Collusion I” had even been heard, but these two formal complaints against ownership did not deter them nor Ueberroth. In fact, Roberts ruling against them simply caused them to switch up how they planned to collude: the winter of 1987-88 featured an information-sharing plan, so every owner knew what the other teams were doing in free agency, and they could avoid severely outbidding the competition. Grievance number three, “Collusion III,” would come in response to this information sharing bank in January 1988.

    Collusion fallout, and Fay Vincent
    All three cases ruled in favor of the players. “New look” free agency was implemented for the players impacted by collusion, so they could choose to search for new teams without having to give up the contract they had already signed. This is how Gibson ended up on the Dodgers in 1988, just in time to create one of the most memorable moments in World Series history, despite the previous lack of offers from anyone besides the Tigers.

    Ueberroth was no longer in office by the time MLB and the MLBPA finally settled on what the combined penalties from three years of collusion would be. In the end, it was agreed that MLB owners had to pay the players $280 million, and the players were able to do with that money what they wanted. Fay Vincent, the new commissioner following the sudden death of Ueberroth’s successor, Bart Giamatti, wrote about this settlement in his book.

    “The single biggest reality you guys have to face up to is collusion. You stole $280 million from the players, and the players are unified to a man around that issue because you got caught and many of you are still involved.”
    Marvin Miller, who fought for decades against the owners and for the players, in his own book A Whole Different Ball Game explained that these years of collusion were not just horrible for the players, but also hypocritical of ownership by likening collusion to the Black Sox scandal of 1919:

    “It was undeniably, an agreement not to field the best team possible — tantamount to fixing, not just games, but entire pennant races, including all post-season series. If players had been found guilty of making agreements not to compete, the commissioner would have banned them for life and justifiably.”
    The owners did not listen to Vincent, who seemed to be the only person in the room who understood why the players were upset about collusion and instead staged a lockout before the 1990 season. This lockout began in February, and kept spring training from ever starting — it also ended with Vincent’s interference, which angered the owners to the point of attempting to remove him from office.

    The 1990 lockout
    The owners hoped to institute pay-for-performance, revenue-sharing, and a salary cap, two of which were guaranteed to be severely limiting to the players, and considering that said players had just been wronged three years in a row on free agency by colluding owners, they weren’t exactly in a place where a discussion was even going to begin on those topics.

    Vincent recognized this, and so when a chorus of owners, led by Bud Selig, agreed to let him join negotiations in a much more official manner, he came up with a far more player-friendly proposal that infuriated the owners, but also served to lead to the end of the lockout.

    [Vincent] contributed his own nine-point plan, including:

    Minimum salaries of $75,000, $125,000, and $200,000 for players in their first three years.

    A 75 percent cap on raises in salary arbitration.

    A joint committee to study revenue-sharing, with a report due in April 1991.
    By the way, don’t get any ideas from this that Vincent was explicitly pro-labor: part of his later negotiations were trying to get the players to promise not to strike in exchange for the lockout coming to an end, a tactic solely meant to make the players look greedy upon refusal, in the hopes of turning public opinion against them.

    An uncomfortably topical holdup on the players’ side during the 1990 lockout was the division between younger players and older players: the veterans didn’t care about salary arbitration nearly as much, as they had already started to see the benefits of free agent dollars, even amid years of collusion. The younger players, who had not yet gotten theirs and didn’t have anywhere near the bank accounts to fall back on, were concerned about being sold off as leverage, harming their present-day earnings in order to get the veterans what they would be satisfied with.

    An anonymous player and “union activist” talked to Helyar about this issue for Lords of the Realm, stating that, “Back then, unity was easy, because we were going for something. Now it’s a more abstract thing of supporting the system. And the money is so big, you can’t go out and re-create the income from this job.” Veterans like Bob Boone and Paul Molitor sowed dissent throughout the union, as they were concerned about losing their big veteran paydays for a year due to the lockout instead of trying to keep the whole system of unity and solidarity, the one that allowed them the power to negotiate those salaries in the first place, alive.

    The modern-day comparison is how the current MLBPA has continued to sell out amateurs and international players in order to try to uphold the earnings of veterans in baseball’s version of a trickle-down economic system. Now, international spending is severely capped, as is draft spending — you can thank Jerry Reinsdorf, one of the colluding owners from the 80s, for that — teams continually focusing on bringing up relatively inexpensive young players, and free agents derided as a poor investment again.

    To top it all off, the percentage of profits players are bringing in has decreased, not increased, and the fall is alarming, as Nathaniel Grow detailed in a piece at FanGraphs before the 2015 season — at that point in time, players had fallen to below a 40 percent share of profits, down from a 56 percent peak in 2002. Now, they’re at a time when it seems much of the league has little interest in going beyond three-year deals, despite record profits and lucrative TV contracts — ownership doesn’t want that lower percentage to climb back up. A little bit of history would go a long way for the Players Union, as none of what they’re dealing with today is new other than the presentation.

    Miller has passed on, and can’t directly come around to enlighten today’s players to the struggles of decades ago like he was able to in 1990, when he joined Donald Fehr in a meeting with the players to explain to them that this fight was worth their efforts even if the veterans already had their earnings and more promised to them.

    “Failing to support the democratically arrived-at decisions of your negotiating committee, your executive director, and your staff can only have one result: a permanent loss of credibility. If you waver, you can count on one thing: the owners will never again take the player reps seriously. The issue here is no longer salary arbitration. It’s the future effectiveness of the union.”
    Miller’s speech worked, the players rejected the offer discussed without the union’s voted-upon consent between Molitor and Selig, and the lockout would inevitably end with the players getting a salary arbitration victory that infuriated the owners, all thanks to their rediscovered sense of solidarity.

    Collusion and MLB expansion
    The lockout was caused in part by the fallout from the years of collusion, but the end of the lockout did not mean the end of the impact of those years. Vincent was given a vote of no-confidence and chose to resign following the lockout, and he was replaced by Selig, the owner of the Brewers. Selig was one of the colluding owners and a central figure in the lockout following that era.

    Selig ran MLB during two rounds of expansion, which former commissioner Vincent told Forbes’, Maury Brown were a direct result of collusion: creating more teams was in part because MLB felt they were strong enough to grow and make more money, but also because doing so created more jobs for more baseball players, and that was one way to pay the union back for collusion and invest part of the $280 million owed the players.

    More grievances, but no punishments
    There have been more collusion grievances over the years, but arbitrators have not ruled in favor of the players since the trio of decisions in the late-80s. This is not the same thing as saying the owners were innocent, however: the 2006 collective bargaining agreement included a damage payment to players for a charge of collusion from 2002-2003, one the owners never admitted guilt to but still felt the need to reach a $12 million settlement for, probably out of the goodness of their hearts.

    In 2008, the MLBPA filed a grievance to support Barry Bonds, who, despite still being a monster offensive contributor who led the league in on-base percentage and managed a 169 OPS+ as a 42-year-old, could not find work — not even after saying he would have played for the league minimum salary. The grievance was abandoned when hard evidence came up lacking, but are you going to say with a straight face the Rays had no interest in bringing in an inexpensive-yet-problematic player who might help them win? Plenty of people have suggested his case had merit, even if it didn’t work out.

    The future of collusion and the MLBPA
    Will the MLBPA be able to file a grievance for collusion for the 2017-2018 offseason? It’s extremely unlikely unless some hard evidence materializes. The Players Association has had a significant hand in this successful power grab and reshaping of the MLB landscape by owners, thanks to their inability to think about more than just their own present-day, veteran-centric situation. They’ve played into the owners’ hands, and leveraged away the futures of potential union members, leaving them a weaker Players Association to inherit in the process.

    The primary method for a player to earn his fair share of MLB’s profits is supposed to be through free agency, especially since other avenues have been lessened or entirely closed off. Now that the owners have the players in this position, and with what is essentially being treated as a hard salary cap now in place after the latest CBA negotiations, they no longer have to pay out in years or dollars what they needed to in the past. If no team is moving past the luxury tax threshold often or with the abandon teams like the Yankees and Dodgers have shown in the past, then it’s a salary cap in all but name.

    Baseball’s vast middle class is going to suffer in this scenario, as there won’t be room for the very good but non-elite free agents of the world to pull in significant deals like in years past — not while the very best free agents begin to take up a higher percentage of now even more limited payroll space, and the rest of the roster is filled out by inexpensive prospects and minor leaguers, whose own arbitration payments could also go down as the value of free agent deals drops, too. Why do you think the 2017-2018 offseason is as quiet as it’s been?

    You can argue that free agency is a bad business deal for teams, but it’s also the only avenue for players to earn their fair share of the profits they’ve produced for MLB. This is the trickle-down economic situation referenced earlier: profits will only trickle down so far, and the owners will become richer and richer. Players are forced to pay their dues and prove themselves in their pre-arbitration and arbitration years, with teams profiting the most from this one-sided arrangement, only to be told upon reaching free agency that they’re now too much of a liability to be signed for what they’re worth, which keeps the whole system one-sided from start to finish.

    Miller warned about this lack of foresight in 1990 when explaining what the union was fighting for was more than just salary arbitration, and his words need to loudly echo into the present-day if we’re going to see a serious change in the way MLB ownership distributes the game’s income. For now, MLB players need to deal with what looks a whole lot like a legalized, codified form of collusion, and the realization that this is happening to them might be the spark they need to find the unity of their past once again.

    My thought
    What a great great game to be in the hands of ( as Mark would say ) knucklehead owners, players, and agents.Sometimes I think the only ones who care and love this game is us the fans.

    1. That was a strange time!

      I remember it well.

      I do not think this is collusion. I think Owners and GM’s are waking up and figuring out that big deal with high priced free agents seldom make sense.

      1. I agree. You do not need to know sabermetrics to discern that these long 9 figure contracts for players past their prime are just not good for the organization. You get better production from pre-arbitration players than you would from 35-40 year olds in the back half of the contract. Some you do not even get to the 2nd half of the contract before they start to go south (Price, Zimmerman). It does not take a lot of research to look at Boras’ contract history and measure the dollars against production to learn that he is nothing more than a used car salesman. When Boras brings his propaganda packages about the players and why they deserve these large contracts (with opt outs), the GM’s should provide one of their own on how successful the contracts for Prince Fielder, Shin Soo Choo, Jacoby Ellsbury, Wei-yin Chen, Ian Kennedy, and Chris Davis have been. The purpose of the game is still to win the World Series, not see how many HR’s or K’s an individual player has. It is still a team game, not an individual one, When was the last time one of Boras’ clients actually helped to produce a WS participant after signing the big contract?
        .
        I like the idea of incentives, but agents do not. I wonder why? I remember the nonsense about Maeda’s contract at the time.

      2. Boras is very smart but he is now dealing with GM’s that are as smart or smarter. I think Friedman and Zaidi with their refusal to sign FA for what they were asking in terms of money and years made a few GM’s take notice.

    2. Wikipedia claims [to date] there have been 81 contracts bigger than Kevin Browns $105 million.

  6. I agree as always this was a well thought out article. I stopped reading when I seen the name Boras though. I also don’t remember much about K. Brown as I was sorta off-grid at the time. They gave him a Lear jet to use did they not. I vaguely remember that being big news.

  7. I feel so sorry for the players. Can you imagine only getting paid what is the league minimum? Salaries are ridiculous. I don’t side with the owners either. There is greed on both sides. The fans are the ones it hurts when prices of taking a family to a game is so expensive.

  8. I find it almost unbelievable that some morons are mocking FAZ, saying they are cheap and should be fired. I am just incredulous when I read that crap. Yeah, it’s been 30 years – don’t remind me! But FAZ has accomplished more in the last 3 years that they did in the previous 27. The Dodgers are set to contend for a long time.

    Talk about a disconnect from Reality!

    1. who mocked them? I haven’t read anything like that here; granted I’ve been skimming more than reading/posting lately

    1. Gerrit Cole for Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran. Seems like the Dodgers could have offered more but had no interest. The Pirates could have held off until the deadline….unless they think there might be something wrong with his arm. On paper this is a steal for the Astros.

  9. The Astros improving from a position of strength – not standing pat, like the Cubs last year.
    Great move.

    1. It was a great pickup . The Astros also gave up reliever Michael Felix and OF prospect Jason Martin. The Astro lost a #5 and #15 prospect and two non distinct pitchers.
      .
      Keuchel, Verlander, McCullers, Cole, Morton. The Astros are loaded.

  10. Not real sold on Cole. Don’t think FAZ was either. FAZ still playing the patient game. I’m with them. Don’t make a deal just to make one. I think AC hit on something. Pirates could have held off, why now? Deals on paper always look great until they have to lace it up. Time will tell on this one,

  11. The deal was for Joe Musgrave (#6 Prospect before 2016 – he is a key piece), Colin Moran (#5 Prospect), Michael Felix and Jason Martin (#15). Rotoworld had this to say:Joe Musgrove and Colin Moran were the first two names linked to the Pirates, but Feliz is arguably the most interesting. The 24-year-old throws very hard and struck out 32 percent of the batters he faced in 2017, despite an unsightly 5.63 ERA. The stuff to be a high-leverage reliever, Feliz could be a nice complement to Bucs closer Felipe Rivero for years to come.

  12. Keuchel, Verlander, McCullers, Cole and Morton appear to be a great rotation, but Keuchel has been up and down, Verlander may have been pitching on adrenaline, McCullers is similar to Hill in injury potential, Morton was good last year… at least a good part of last year and Cole has also been up and down. They could be great… or not.

    No matter how you slice it, the Dodgers are still one of the Top Rotations in baseball and we have no clue how Buehler or Urias will do next year. Cole would have been nice, but…

    1. Friedman said he was not looking at additions to the starting rotation as he was looking for a soft landing for his young starting pitchers. There was never any hint of a discussion for Cole. Or Archer for that matter. I think FAZ is putting a lot of faith in Maeda and Ryu. I would rather have another RH in the rotation, but it looks like the Dodgers will be going with 4 LHSP and 1 RHSP to start. I am okay with not getting Cole, but I do think they could have put a better package together that would not have included any of the untouchables. Cole is also only $6.75M which the Dodgers could easily have absorbed without putting the luxury tax threshold in risk.
      .
      The Astros bullpen got better with Hector Rondon and Joe Smith signed, and now it would appear that Brad Peacock and Colin McHugh will be permanently moving to the pen. Devinski, Giles, Rondon, Smith, Harris, Peacock, McHugh, Sipp (if they go 8). They also have young Paulino who they are high on. Losing Gregerson, Liriano, and Fiers was a blessing. They really do not have any real weaknesses.
      .
      The Astros won their division by 21 games and the WS. While the Astros did not have any weaknesses going into the off-season, they got better. Can they repeat? They are certainly the favorite in the AL.
      .
      On the other hand, The Dodgers got to the WS, have no discernable weaknesses, but did not get better. They lose Darvish and Morrow and pick up Alexander, Koehler, and Kemp (for how long?). LF is still a BIG question mark. I believe their bullpen will be stellar again, but as I indicated above, I am not as optimistic about Maeda and Ryu in the starting rotation as others may be.
      .
      The Dodgers are currently projected to be $17,411,114 below the luxury tax threshold, so they should have plenty of cash and prospects to use at the deadline. It would be great to find a JD Martinez and a Yu Darvish at the deadline.

  13. I think that you’d have to admit that on paper, the ‘Stros have a better rotation than the Dodgers. But the Astros stripped it down to the studs several years ago and don’t really have much in the way of salary commitments, ($74.4 million) so they have flexibility that the Dodgers don’t have this year.

    The Braintrust isn’t “cheap”, but they won’t spend the way that the Dodgers have spent in the past. They won’t pay for unproductive years at the end of a player’s career, which will mean that the Dodgers will not be able to sign some free agents that they would have been able to sign in the past. There will be some who construe this as cheapness. It’s not – it’s just a different way of evaluating whether a deal should be made. GMs used to consider buying the end of a player’s career a cost of doing business and of getting a high-end free agent. The Braintrust doesn’t, but as Mark pointed out above, the new wave of analytics-driven GMs generally don’t. That’s one reason for the slow free agent market.

    This goes to AC’s point. The market is slow in part because all teams are driven by analytics to one degree or another and therefore most teams are going to be reluctant to give extra years to free agents. Players and their agents haven’t yet adjusted to the new reality and so there may be claims of collusion, but I haven’t seen evidence of that – just a new way to evaluate player contracts, especially in light of the luxury tax.

  14. It looks like Adrian Gonzalez to the Mets (pending physical). I hope he does well. The era of Lucas Duda as a Met appears to be over. Not that that is a big deal, but I like to give a shout out to all of my Trojan brethren.
    .
    Another item I came across doing some research, SVS signed a minor league contract with the Marlins. Well now the Marlins do have a player other than Yelich who has played OF at the ML level. I know he was not a big fan favorite but he was a Dodger draftee (15th round – 2005) and played his entire career with the Dodgers until the trade to the Reds for Cingrani last year. I wish him well as well.

  15. The Astros have done a good job of improving and they are also mindful that they may lose some starters down the road. The Pirates got what they wanted, prospects for Cole. But really the Dodgers only would compete against the Astros in a World Series so it is the AL’s problem. Going forward the Dodgers will get younger and have more financial flexibility to improve the team as needed. It was interesting that the Cubs management said the Dodgers are their competition and it is a ‘fun rivalry’.

    Current Las Vegas Odds to Win World Series:
    Yankees….5-1
    Dodgers…6-1
    Astros…….6-1
    Indians…..7.5-1
    Nats……….9-1
    Red Sox…10-1
    Cubs………12-1
    Cards…….18-1
    Az…………..22-1
    And for the long shot players the Rockies are 50-1! The Twins, who made the playoffs are 75-1, the Giants 33-1.

  16. Addison Reed was projected by MLBTR to sign for 4 years and $36M. He signed today for 2 years and $16.75M with the Twins. That leaves Tony Watson and Greg Holland as the two remaining top relief pitcher free agents according to MLBTR top 50 free agents. The three relievers signed by the Rockies (Davis, McGee, and Shaw) signed for three years. All of the other relievers signed for two. Holland wants a 4th year, and Watson probably wants 3.
    .
    There are dozens or relievers still available including Xavier Cedeno, Neftali Perez, Tyler Clippard, Matt Albers, Josh Collmenter, Brian Duensing, John Axford, Jeanmar Gomez, Glen Perkins, Seung-hwan Oh, Zach Putnam, Chad Quals, Anibal Sanchez, Drew Soren, Koji Uehara, Travis Wood. All of these guys should sign at least a minor league with a ML invite to ST. Who knows if there might be another Brad Hand or Brandon Morrow in that heap.

  17. The dodgers will go into the season behind Houston, cubs, nationals, Yankees, and probably Cleveland and Boston. I dare say the angels have made up a lot of ground with Arizona and Colorado threatening.this is obviously just an opinion. I don’t see us winning a World Series anytime soon. We have a solid team a very good team but we are counting on another great year from Taylor, solid rotation, Seager healthy, Puig and Bellinger great again, and a bunch of maybes in the bullpen besides Jansen. We had our chance last year but Jansen uncharacteristic ally blew game 2, Kershaw characteristically gave them game 5, and instead of clinching with Verlander we get Yu who gave them 2 games. I really can’t blame the brass for getting yu but he hasn’t been very good for awhile. I know he beat Arizona who was dead tired and the cubs the same. If I remember correctly he struggled early against one or both of them. We caught those teams at the right time and thank god for home field because Roberts tried every way in the world to give it away. It all fell just right for us last year but unlikely to be that lucky again. So another good year probably a division but that will be it. Our deadline moves really haven’t panned out enough to really get the job done. I was very surprised they signed Turner and Jansen but luckily they weren’t as greedy as Greinke. If they don’t sign Kershaw and Jansen opts out his first chance they will get the payroll where they want. I think we will be in for some exciting years, and have some very good teams but World Series caliber probably not if we are going to sit on our hands while the best teams get better.

    1. The Dodgers have the highest attendance, both home and road, own their Stadium and have the top TV Deal in the sport. They have won 5 straight Division Titles and have advanced one round each year under FAZ. They have 2 straight ROY and more prospects in the pipeline. They accumulate former 1st round picks and give them a look see at nominal cost. They have gotten payroll under control for a sustained run and just signed all of their arb players for the 10th straight year. At some point they have to stop blocking top prospects with aging vets. They have a team going against 22-1, 33-1, 50-1 and 100-1 in their Division, another West Title is a solid bet and they have the prospects and capital to make deadline deals. Seems like they will win some World Series in the near future. As for this year I think the breakout players from last season will only improve with experience and more will break out and surprise this year as well. It’s a great time to be a Dodgers fan and I would not trade places with any team, including the Yanks and Astros and Cubs.

      1. You certainly make many positive points. I believe the pitching staff is a place where we could stop blocking the younger players hopefully Urias, Buehler, and others can infuse some youth. Thanks for your optimism on the World Series I sure hope you are right. It is a great time to be a dodger fan.

  18. If I were to make a bet as to which team would win the WS and my choices were Astros or not the Astros, I would bet on not-the-Astros. That gives me 29 teams that could win the WS against only one. In a WS, one pitcher can give a team a championship.
    .
    The Dodgers want to give themselves a shot at the WS every year because in a 10 year period, that gives them the best odds of winning 2 or more WS. We have all been saying that.

  19. I do not think left field is a weakness for the Dodgers. I don’t care how many times people repeat themselves about it being a weakness. One way or another, the players already in the Dodger organization will make left field a strength. Time will tell.

    1. I agree a platoon with Pederson and Toles from the left side and kike , Kemp from the right side could be very good with Toles and Pederson able to play center when needed. They have the ability if they can stay healthy they should perform. Eventually Verdugo should help I just don’t have much confidence in Thompson. Versus right handlers you could have Toles lf, Seager ss, turner 3b, Bellinger 1b, Taylor 2b, Puig rf, Pederson cf, Grandal c or have Forsyth at second with Taylor in cf and Toles or Pederson out. Against lefties Taylor, Seager, turner, Bellinger,kemp/Hernandez, puig, Forsyth, Barnes

  20. Wow!!! Now this was a helluva post… As usual M.T. and AC.kept the ball rolling and the guys n gals humming…
    I stand pat with:
    The MLB Monopoly money stops with the owner.
    NLW will be a gauntlet…
    LF (as Bumsrap stated) is not a problem… Hopefully we see a clear winner in what
    will be a dogfight in ST…
    We know if were in the hunt late in the season the FO will react…
    AGon it was a pleasure to see you play for the Blue and now God willing have a healthy year…

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