Kobritz: MLB players' naivete knows no bounds
Beyond the Lines
For anyone who hasn’t been paying attention, this is the second winter in a row MLB free agents have found the thermostat turned down low. Instead of cashing in on long term contracts at big bucks, free agents have been waiting by the phone.
A number of players have been critical of teams for failing to empty their pocketbooks. Their comments reflect their ignorance of how the Collective Bargaining Agreement and market forces work to determine their wages.
Dodgers’ third baseman Evan Longoria took to Snapchat to voice his concerns that fellow players have yet to hit the lottery. “It’s (sic) seems every day now someone is making up a new analytical tool to devalue players, especially free agents. As fans, why should “value” for your team even be a consideration? (I)t’s money that players have worked their whole lives to get to that level and be deserving of.”
Forget the grammar. Longoria is paid to hit a baseball, not emulate Roger Angell. Of greater concern is his comments about “value” and players being “deserving of (money).” Earth to Longoria, “value” to the team is what salaries should be about. Players aren’t guaranteed a salary just because they want for it. The Cubs’ Kris Bryant said, "There's a lot of teams out there that have the money to spend, but they're not doing it."
During the Red Sox’ annual Winter Weekend majority owner John Henry, one of the smartest minds in the game, said, “Twenty years ago, I think 45 percent of wins above replacement were due to players that were beyond six years of service (when players are eligible for free agency). That number now is 25 percent…We have a lot more production from younger players for whatever reason.” That information, the analytics referred to by Longoria, has negatively impacted free agency.
This year’s premier free agents are Bryce Harper and Manny Machado. Harper reportedly turned down a 10-year, $300 million contract from his former team, the Washington Nationals. Some team may yet give him a contract north of that figure, but if not, the only person he has to blame for passing on $30 million per year is himself, or his agent, Scott Boras.
Machado is uber-talented but also self-absorbed and selfish. By all accounts he wants to play for the Yankees, but at his price, not theirs. To date, the only offer he has on the table is from the White Sox, for seven years and $175 million. If you can conjure up tears of sorrow over that figure, when federal employees are out of work with no paycheck, have at it.
What is true is player salaries decreased last year in both annual average and as a percentage of baseball’s overall revenues. The good news for players is CBAs don’t last forever. The current one expires following the 2021 season, which means it’s not too early for the union to plan a negotiating strategy designed to reverse the obvious leverage teams currently have.
In the meantime, players should ditch the whining and play ball.
Jordan Kobritz is a non-practicing attorney and CPA, former Minor League Baseball team owner and current investor in MiLB teams. He is a professor in the Sport Management Department at SUNY Cortland and maintains the blog, sportsbeyondthelines.com. The opinions contained in this column are the author’s. Kobritz can be reached by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.