Searle: Traded to be hated

From Ginny Searle at Baseball Prospectus on March 14, 2019:

The great inefficiency of MLB’s free agent system is that it’s not designed to pay players proportionally across the arcs of their careers in correlation with their production. By limiting players’ salaries to near the league minimum across their first three seasons, the terms of the Collective Bargaining Agreement allow teams extract massive surplus value from players as they start out. Blake Snell, to take one recent example, just had his contract unilaterally renewed by the Rays for $573,000 ($18,000 over the league minimum) following a Cy Young-winning campaign.

The converse of this paradigm is that free agent contracts, particularly those of the long-term, high-average-annual-value variety, stand a much greater chance of becoming at least optically burdensome to the organizations responsible for their terms. Another sluggish winter has definitively proven that Pandora’s Box to be open, and now, particularly for players tenured among the league’s highest paid, it has grown common to witness “salary dump” trades.

These marquee players, often on the tail ends of careers, find themselves in new locales in front of new fan bases, some of whom have little knowledge of (or interest in) the player’s heroics for their previous organization. Often the result of such transactions is that segments of the player’s new fan base are quick to turn on them in the case of perceived or actual under-performance, and even to those less vitriolic and more analytically inclined, the contract itself is often described as “dead money” or even an albatross.

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Originally published: March 14, 2019. Last Updated: March 14, 2019.