As pitchers and catchers start to report, with spring training games beginning late next week, many high-profile names remain unsigned. Teams are embracing the idea that a $200 million payroll is not necessary to winning the World Series. Just ask the last three clubs to win it all. The draft and developing young talent is now the roadmap to follow.
There have been discussions throughout the offseason regarding solutions such as a payroll floor or not being able to select number one in back to back seasons. The draft proposal seems more realistic, but if the league established a payroll floor, it would not solve the problem.
In 2016, the market developed slowly similarly to now, but it did not mean money was not spent. Chris Davis received a seven-year deal to remain in Baltimore and Alex Gordon signed a five-year deal to stay in Kansas City. By the way, both teams wish they could get off those deals. Last week, Yu Darvish got $126 million from the Cubs, and I do still think that J.D. Martinez, Eric Hosmer, and Jake Arrieta will find longterm deals.
If there was a payroll floor, would it incentivize teams to spend on the free agent market, or just give their young players extensions because they have to? The luxury tax is different because that is not mandatory, and it is up to the franchise whether they want to spend at high levels that cause them to be taxed. The floor is the league telling the owners, you have to spend this amount even though spending money does not equal winning. Also, the less money the teams spend, the more that they get to keep. In the case of the Miami Marlins, if they do not want to sign someone like Martinez because that will take away at-bats from young players, why should they have to?
Let’s imagine a payroll floor of $75 million as an example. The Marlins do lack starting pitching, so of course Arrieta would help their rotation. However, this is Arrieta’s chance in free agency to decide where he wants to play, and I doubt that a team like the Marlins are high on his list. On the Marlins side, perhaps they would be interested in Arrieta on a one- or two-year deal, but then he would be right back in this position again.
Brian Kenny of MLB Network has a theory where he would, as a general manager, avoid the mega-deal. This directly relates to a contract being a reward for what a player has done rather than what they will do during the length of the deal. The numerous examples of bad deals are what make GMs hesitant to give them, and a salary floor would only exacerbate the problem.
Hosmer reportedly has two seven-year deals on the table, but he is still holding out because he wants eight or nine years. Teams are willing to spend, but having a player make $25 million at age 35 is what makes teams uneasy. On the other hand, a short-term deal from a bad team is unattractive to the player.
A payroll floor might be able to help an average free agent such as seeing more deals like Carlos Santana to the Phillies, but the top guys would still be looking for work.
Young players are the best way to go from nothing to something, and they don’t make any money. Also, like we have seen in the past, guys do still get paid even if it does not come at the Winter Meetings. Baseball should look into fixing the slow offseason, but a floor is not the way to change it.