Baseball’s Economics Just Don’t Add Up

The economy of baseball is broken. Nothing is adding up at this point. We’re now into February and over half of the MLB free agents are yet to sign. The hot stove, normally a ferocious wild fire, has been dimmed to a faint glow. The economics of baseball just don’t add up anymore.

Collusion or Caution?

There have been accusations of collusion. MLB owners turned around and placed the blame on mega-agent Scott Boras. They didn’t name him directly in their statement, but everyone can put two and two together and figure out they’re talking about Boras. Personally, I don’t think Boras has anything to do with it.

The free agent pool certainly isn’t exciting, but there are plenty of good players available. Guys like Yu Darvish, Jake Arrieta and J.D. Martinez highlight the market. Those guys and many others have yet to find homes. We’re less than a month away from spring training camps breaking.

If it’s not collusion then what could be causing the delay? Nobody knows for sure. There is another theory that the nerd invasion that has taken over MLB front offices has played a huge role in the lack of free agent signings. Most front offices are now entirely driven by analytics and small market thinking. Much like the Dodger’s front office has been. Player development has taken over as the top priority, (FAZ) and teams have decided that free agency is too much of a risk. They would rather wait to win and develop from within then to spend on free agency.

It’s just not worth it for most MLB clubs. The problem is that unrestricted free agency seems to be going the way of the Dodo bird. There is no hard cap, but there is a luxury tax which effects future spending periods. The Dodgers have been trying to stay under the tax threshold this winter, among a few other high payroll clubs as well.

Winning’s just option

I think that tanking is another huge problem dogging baseball. There are a lot of teams that are way too quick to burn it all down and rebuild. Teams like the Marlins and Pirates think that winning is just an option. What those teams have done is sad and pathetic in the same way that Bluto and Badger think that the LADR spam filter moderation is.

Winning shouldn’t be an option but instead should be considered mandatory. Every team should be forced to at least try and compete. Unfortunately clubs see recent success stories of the Cubs and Astros and want to follow in their footsteps. But those clubs had to lose for years and it took smart drafting and player development in order to do so. It also took a few good trades and signings as well. Do you think the Cubs win the World Series if they do not sign Jon Lester? Do the Astros beat the Dodgers without acquiring Justin Verlander?

The free agency system doesn’t seem to work because clubs are paying older players for past years of production. Perhaps the answer could be to make players eligible for free agency earlier, after three or four years instead of six years. It is a young man’s game and players decline once they get into their thirties.

I know this; the tanking has got to stop. Teams should be penalized for losing on purpose.  I think it is possible to rebuild without destroying your entire roster. There is no reason to alienate fans by forcing them to watch unwatchable baseball for several years with the possibility that it may one day lead to winning seasons.

The Hard Cap

I believe that the only answer is to institute a hard salary cap on player salaries. Players fought hard to prevent this from happening, but things are so broken, and owners are so out of touch with the realities of the game that this seems to be the best solution. The game itself is healthier than ever, but the economy of baseball is broken.

If things are not fixed soon then the divide between the large market clubs and the small market clubs will continue to get bigger. The rich and the poor will mean less parity. The middle class is shrinking in major league baseball.

This article was originally published here at LA Dodger Report. For more from Scott, follow LADR on Twitter.

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