Arthur: Free agents can bring home a trophy

From SABR member Rob Arthur at Baseball Prospectus on January 18, 2019:

By now, most baseball fans have noticed that this offseason is moving slower than molasses. Star free agents like Bryce Harper and Manny Machado await their contracts, a rarity this late in the winter. And the contracts that we have seen signed have been surprisingly small, like Yasmani Grandal’s one-year deal with the Brewers.

Many people have put forth explanations for why the free agent market is suffering, from collusion between owners to the dominance of sabermetrics in front offices to the unreasonable contract demands of super-agents. But one theory in particular caught my eye: That free agents simply aren’t worth paying for because they don’t return as much money as they cost. This argument ignores the underlying way that team owners make the most money, which is by eventually selling their franchises.

The argument, articulated well by Neil deMause at Deadspin, goes that in real dollar terms, each win bought on the free agent market results in just a $1.5 million increase in revenue.

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Originally published: January 18, 2019. Last Updated: January 18, 2019.