OPINION: Free-Agency needs to be re-evaulated
It’s time for promotions at work and knowing you’ve been working for the organization for seven years, it’s a certainty you’ll get the increase in pay. Instead the company isn’t sure about how you’d fit into their long-term plans at the higher level and decides to either keep you at the lower pay you were earning before or just terminate you.
On top of that they bring in someone with no working experience at all within the corporation to fill what would have been your promotion and pay raise.
That’s what many of the remaining free-agent crop of players are going through at this point. There are a couple main reasons for it. Both of them, if understood and put into the players shoes, would get your blood boiling too. I understand its hard to feel bad for athletes as they make an absurd amount of money to begin with, but they are human beings as well and deserve the same amount of success in their endeavors.
The current draft pick compensation method has limited a lot of players’ value in free-agency over the last two off-seasons. The process needs to be re-evaluated and changed.
The original rule, based from the most recent collective bargaining agreement, states that teams can pony up a “qualifying offer” worth the average of the game’s top 125 salaries the previous season ($14.1 million this year). If the player declines the offer, the organization who loses him would receive a first round pick from the team who signs him. For Example. Brian McCann, signed with Yankees after rejecting $14.1 million qualifying offer from the Braves. Yankees forfeit first round pick to Braves.
Sure it may not make a difference for the very best players on the open market: I.E. Robinson Cano, Jacoby Ellsbury and even Shin-Soo Choo. However, for the borderline free-agents like Ubaldo Jimenez, Ervin Santana and Nelson Cruz, it’s impacting their market. It’s not to say there is absolutely no market for these players, but without the draft pick compensation method, these players would have already been signed.
Look at outfielder Michael Bourn from last winter. He was one of the better choices in free-agency. He rejected the qualifying offer from the Braves and expected to cash in on a similar contract B.J. Upton received, ironically from the Braves (five-year, $75 million). He ended up not signing until February 15, less than a week before he was due for spring training with just about any team. It was $48 million over four years.
Adam LaRoche, although not to the extreme as Bourn, was another victim of the system last season. The Washington Nationals, Baltimore Orioles and Boston Red Sox were linked to the first baseman the most. Many teams were hesitant on giving the 33-year-old a three-year deal or longer plus having to surrender a top draft pick. The Nationals ended up re-signing him, but of course they didn’t have to give up a first round pick as they were basically re-signing one of their own.
Kyle Loshe is the main one that pitchers focus on when it comes to this argument. The same Loshe, who won a career-high 16 games for the St. Louis Cardinals in 2012 and posted a career-best 2.86 ERA and started and helped guided the team to a near-World Series berth, didn’t sign a contract until March 25…
That’s right! Just a week before the season began. He didn’t have Spring Training, he didn’t have an opportunity to make his mark with a team and had to start the year right off. He won 11 games for a porous Brewers club with a 3.35 ERA.
So tell me how this isn’t affecting free-agents. Yes, many of them declined the qualifying offer in which they could be financially secured… but that was for one year! Just one year! Every player would love to have that long-term security just like anyone else would.
The point is the market is limited for the current crop of talent because they are known commodities that many teams don’t want to sacrifice a future draft pick to obtain. Yes, these players are talented, but they are also either getting up there in age or just aren’t worth sacrificing a first-round selection.
The other big reason for even Matt Garza, who isn’t tied to draft pick compensation, and why he is still a free-agent is the posting for Masahiro Tanaka. Many executives feel the upside is greater even for a guy who has never thrown a pitch in the United States.
Executives marvel over the total body of work Tanaka has produced over his career in Japan. He’s won 99 career games in seven seasons with a 2.30 ERA. Specifically in 2013, he posted a perfect 24-0 mark with a 1.27 ERA. In fact he’s owned that 1.27 ERA for two out of the last three years. In 2012, he stubbed his toe to a 1.87 ERA.
Teams are also considering the fortune of what Tanaka could bring because of the success of Yu Darvish. The Texas Rangers ace fanned 277 batters last season and came just short of winning his first Cy Young. Tanaka is a great pitcher, but he only recorded 200-plus strikeouts once in his seven years overseas. The strike zone is considered wider and U.S. is usually tighter. It’s going to be hard for him to accumulate 277 strikeouts. However, he can certainly become a nice two or three in any rotation if he can adjust to the United States.
OPSN’s Shawn Ferris wrote an article the other day on how Jimemez is seeking $17-20 million a year. While he’s had some ups and downs over his career, no one would dare sign him to that figure; mainly because of the draft pick. He’s had success throughout his career along with a couple porous years, but would still be a great piece for a contender. Instead, many teams are willing to pay that much over six or seven years for a hurler who hasn’t even thrown a ball in the United States.
Tanaka is a special breed of talented Japanese pitchers who come to the United States from Japan. Some work out and some don’t. But at the same time, the current crop of U.S. pitchers who we talked about are still on the open market because teams don’t want to risk a draft pick. We know who these guys are and they aren’t as attractive to what is basically an unknown U.S. commodity in Tanaka.
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