A Draft Suggestion

One more suggestion — get someone else to do this.

I’ve been sitting around thinking about this lately. No, I still don’t think amateur players are really losing any “rights” by getting below-market deals, but Bill made me think a bit harder, which is always a good thing. Even if their rights aren’t really being taken away (I mean, seriously, they make a lot of money, but yeah, I understand the fairness thing), should it be that way? When dealing with conservatives or people who like to stick with what’s working, I often argue that just because it’s working, that doesn’t make what we do the best way to do it. I think I failed a little here. I got too carried away with the fact that the system works now, but I forgot to look for a better answer. I mentioned the “dialectic” a while ago, and I’m bringing it back up now for the purpose of finding that better solution.

Right now, we have a dilemma. On one hand, Major League Baseball is concerned with keeping a competitive balance, and abolishing the draft would seem to end that (we can argue about this, but for now, just let me go). On the other hand, the system isn’t really fair to the players who, unlike employees in other sectors of the economy (Bill pointed this out), cannot get their fair value or play for who they want to. So, do you want competition or everyone to get a fair shake? I think we might be able to get both.

First, keep the draft. Letting bad teams have the first crack at the best players probably does help keep some sort of competitive balance. Otherwise, every Tom, Dick, and Harry might want to play and take less money to play in Boston like football players to USC (okay, they get more money there, but that’s beside the point). Even if the Nationals had spots open to compete in the majors, the players may not want to play there anyway.

Second, let’s still get these kids their money. Have an independent team of economists come up with market values for the players in the draft. Give the results to the teams and players before the draft. They, then, negotiate with the player. If the player is willing to take less than his value (for whatever reason), then let him. However, if he feels like he has been taken advantage of, he can file a grievance. If the team offers less than 90% (maybe 95%?) of his market-value, the player wins. At that point, he is either placed on waivers or granted free-agency (I’m leaning free-agency as the kid has already been put through the wringer once). The team knows his value, and it’s their fault for not signing him. If the player demands more than he’s worth, then he has to go to or back to college or an independent league under the current rules. It’s like a slotting system, but it’s one based on actual market value, not a suppressed one

Third, allow the trading of draft picks. Draft picks are just like minor-leaguers and should be tradeable. If a team wants draft picks, then let them trade away a player for the chance to get a player later. It might even help facilitate a trade at the deadline. I wonder how many trades didn’t happen because the other team needed one more prospect the other team didn’t have. A first-round pick might just be the answer. If a team can’t afford to sign Strasburg, they trade away the pick for a few prospects that might help them. In this scenario, the worst teams would be the ones loading up on draft picks as they sell veterans away. Better teams do get good players in return, but they (like in free-agency) lose draft picks, hurting their farm systems. There’s really no reason not to allow trading draft picks.

Alas, I don’t know what to do about free-agent compensation. On one hand, the better teams would lose more draft picks, but those draft picks would end up being worth less if they’ve already traded away their first round pick. On the other hand, that might keep guys like Orlando Cabrera from being caught in no man’s land. A team might consider him worth a third round pick. I guess the problem there would be that a team who has already traded away picks one and two might not want to do that to their third, but then again, a third-round pick isn’t that valuable. I say keep the free-agent compensation.

But what about players getting to choose where they play? In my mind, the MLB is a company, not a sector of the economy. You choose to belong to the MLB and adhere to all rules of that company. You can leave at any time. The teams are like individual departments. The company can put you in whatever department you want. You can throw a fit, and maybe, they’ll move you. Maybe they won’t. Now, you knew coming into this that you could be moved around (ask people with government jobs; they can be asked to move to other cities, and they really have no choice — either accept or be held back on the promotion ladder). Not all bosses are good, but there’s no guarantee that moving will help you, either.

Okay, so they’re in, but what about free-agency? To me, the signing bonus is to bring you in. A lot of companies have pay scales. In your first year or rank, you make X amount. As time goes on, you make more money. I have always liked the pay scale in the majors. You get three years making the minimum or whatever the team gives you. Over the next three years, you and the team duke it out, but you make a lot more money. Then, you get to really go out and make lots of money, or whatever you’re really worth. I don’t see how this is very different from a lot of other parts of the economy. You have a pay scale or tenure. But I would make a slight change. For the first two years, you make the league minimum, and for the next three, you go through arbitration, getting players to free-agency a year earlier.

The problem with all this, of course, is how to practically install all of this. Nothing can happen until the next bargaining agreement. And let’s be honest — none of this favors the owners (But I don’t think they’ll pay anymore than they do now. All the teams will still have the same budgets. The only change will probably be the ticket prices that will go up in the pretense that more money will be spent on the team). To get them to agree to this, major concessions will be needed. Any suggestions on that? More PED testing for players (I mean, if they’re going to pay you more, they should know what they’re getting)?


2 Responses to “A Draft Suggestion”

  1. Bill Says:

    This is interesting stuff. I think the logistics of the "independent team of economists" would be a nightmare — one side or the other (or both) would always claim the "team" is secretly in the pocket of the other side, and of course agents would hate it (even if it gets them more money on the whole, it takes a lot of power out of their hands). I think something like that would be a big improvement if it worked, though.

  2. Jason @ IIATMS Says:

    the answer to that, Bill, is Sonia Sotomayor!

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