Leverage For Amateur Baseball Players

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Yesterday, I blogged up my thoughts on what teams like the Chicago Cubs might consider trying transactions-wise in the wake of Major League Baseball’s announcement that teams could trade their recent draftees sooner.  While this isn’t necessarily the same as direct trading of draft picks like in other professional sports, teams could potentially treat it as such…basically, a trade with about a five-month delay until its completion.

Super-agent Scott Boras, of course, continues to advocate for his clients in order to give teams, and ultimately his clients, more leverage in dealings:

“I’d like to see them be able to trade draft picks from Day 1,” Boras said. “Trade picks, trade players — there should be a whole universe of options. I’m a believer that you want as many chips on the table so the intellect can operate and a master plan can be created from a variety of different avenues of trade, draft, scouting and development, free agency, all the structures.

“It creates an exciting moment for people to think about options to make their particular team better. It makes the game more interesting, I think.”

The article by Nick Piecoro has a lot of good material, including industry worries that players and their agents would get too much control.  This is logical since MLB is worried about keeping costs down, which is why pre-arbitration players barely get over league minimum, arbitration is used to keep costs below market, and minor league guys don’t get paid diddly past their signing bonuses.  Even if draftees can be traded directly, and even if draftees can try to force their parent clubs’ hands in influencing their ultimate destination, the six-to-seven years of club control (not to mention the years in the minors) puts the leverage squarely in the hands of each franchise.

That doesn’t mean the players and agents don’t have SOME control, though.  That’s why there is such a huge vetting process before the draft and so many resources spent by each team to make sure they get the right guy, even if the CBA allows for some compensation in the event of a no-sign.

For example, a player could use back-channels to suggest to certain teams that they would be happy to offer their services to those teams.  Let’s imagine a scenario here…

  • Player wants a certain amount of money to sign.
  • However, player wants to go to a certain team, let’s say the Los Angeles Dodgers, who have mutual interest in a partnership but can’t afford the requested signing bonus due to restrictions in the current CBA and crippling penalties that would result should they blow the bank on the player.
  • Player and Dodgers then negotiate with another team that picks earlier (let’s say the Cubs) to pay the guy the money, then in five months, Dodgers will send some prospects, cash consideration, or a player who is MLB-ready.
  • Everyone is sort of happy with what was set up.

This doesn’t give the player 100% guarantees that they’ll stay with the Dodgers, of course, because pre-arbitration assets (and really, any pre-free agent players) can be traded at the club’s discretion for a long period of time.  And there’s only so much the player will actually want to hold out, since they are unlikely to get the higher bonus they desire due to CBA restrictions, and have to weigh the risks of injury and falling stock with the seven-figure payout they will receive now versus waiting until later for a potential increase in signing bonus.  Of course, teams can’t be 100% a dick about this or else they may hurt their chances of scoring some of the best talent (in the draft, or otherwise) due to a poorly-perceived reputation.

The system is still weighted heavily for MLB.  But the player (and his agent) now get at least some good cards to play with.


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About Rice Cube

Rice Cube is the executive vice president of snark at World Series Dreaming. He loves all things Cubs, with notable exceptions (specifically, the part of Cubs fandom that pisses him off). Follow on Twitter at cubicsnarkonia

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