Friday, August 1, 2008

Brian Matusz Update

The Baltimore Sun reports the negotiations between the O's and Brian Matusz are in a holding pattern. The Orioles have just two weeks to sign Matusz or they will relinquish his rights, but I have no doubt that the O's will eventually get a deal done. Unfortunately, with the way MLB has mismanaged the draft, we're likely to see a lot more of these hold outs go down to the very last minute, just like the Wieters negotations last year. Since MLB has tried to limit bonuses through it's "slotting" system (where it suggests an appropriate bonus amount for each pick), several teams--the Red Sox, Tigers, Yankees and others--have routinely stocked up on premium prospects because they were willing to go above slot and pay the prospects their asking prices. Now, more teams, realizing that premium talent can command a premium price, are willing to pay but they are still leery of going against the commish. Thus, teams are playing a ridiculous game of chicken not wanting to be the first to dole out a bonus far above slot.

Several commenters to the Sun article have, predictably, lamented that today's ball player just wants to get paid and doesn't play for the love of the game. That's a lame argument. Teams give players bonuses on the expectation that they will produce future wins and, correspondingly, revenues. Teams that don't spend money on talent--whether at the prospect level or at the big league level--don't win, and then the fans complain that their owners are too cheap to put a winning ballclub on the field.

As a former player, all my sympathies lie with the drafted player. After he signs that first professional contract, the player cannot negotiate a new contract for years. The team controls the pay the player will receive throughout his minor league career and then for his first three Major League seasons. Then, for the next three years, the player's salary will be determined through the arbitration process. Granted, by this time, the player is making some pretty good cash, but it is only until after six full seasons that the player gets to choose his own employer through the free agent process. It's not for seven to ten years that players have full control over where they play! A player is absolutely right to use all their leverage in this situation; it will be a long time before they can use it again.

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