Go to Hollywood or Broadway and your food server may be a starving actor. Why? Because the big stars, the ones that sell tickets, are making most of the money. On the other hand, the extras are “a dime a dozen” and have to take whatever they can get.
It’s starting to look like that in baseball. Free agency has made the players free to negotiate and the owners free to pick their “extras.”
Commissioner Manfred admitted that this week:
Good but unexceptional veterans must realize teams find them less valuable in the age of analytics, MLB commissioner Rob Manfred maintained ahead of season openers.
Players have expressed anger following the second straight slow free-agent market, one that saw record deals for top stars and plummeting prices for many journeymen.
“Obviously, what the clubs are saying, the Bryce Harpers, the Mike Trouts, these free agents, Manny Machado, they have tremendous value,” Manfred said Wednesday.
Then he cited the example of a 33-year-old player with 1.0 WAR (wins above replacement) last season.
“That price has been disappointing for some players, but that’s the market,” Manfred said. “What we’ve said to the players is, ‘Look, if that’s your issue, you’ve got to tell us.’ That’s a distribution issue. That means some guys are getting too much. Some guys are getting too little. We’re largely agnostic on that one.”
Too much for some, too little for others? Welcome to free agency 2019.
Not long ago, players could get by on major league experience.
Today, the “whiz kids” in the front office look at your experience a bit differently. How does he hit lefties? How many times does he take the first pitch or swing at a strike 3? It is the kind of analysis that makes a player worth a lot or nothing, no matter how long he’s played ball.
For example, a veteran making $5 million a year can be replaced on the field by a rookie making $300,000. The baseball value is the same and you can save the money and invest it in the draft or player development.
My guess is that this new reality will come back to the union eventually. Do they want Bryce Harper to make $30 million a year or a few more veteran guys on the bench?
Forty years later and free agency looks a lot different than it did when Catfish Hunter left the A’s to sing with the Yankees.