The “Screw ‘Em” Template

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It provides no benefit at all for the MLB Players Association to have drafted players—who are not yet members of the union—to receive lavish bonuses for signing their names.

In addition to that, the draft is affecting the MLB free agents. If there is draft pick compensation and unwanted offers of arbitration, a player isn’t “free” to go where he chooses even if there’s mutual interest between him and a team. Other conditions apply—perhaps the interested team doesn’t feel the player is worth losing the draft pick and won’t sign him because of that.

The clubs are in a similar situation. What if they offer arbitration fully expecting the player to reject it, have crunched the numbers and made plans to move on without him…and he accepts it?

Heath Bell has hamstrung the Padres by stating that he’s going to accept arbitration if it’s offered; Rafael Soriano stunned the Braves by accepting after the 2009 season and they responded by trading him.

For those reasons, why should the Players Association care if there’s a slotting system and cost control devices in place to prevent amateurs from making a ton of money and hindering their own freedom of movement?

And why should the teams care?

There’s an underlying bitterness among big league players that a drafted player receives a massive paycheck for his performance as an amateur; that they’re shifted around and prevented from leaving a club or going to their desired venue because of the ties between something that has nothing to do with them—the draft—and their own freedom of movement. It grates on big league players when Bryce Harper receives close to a $10 million payday for what most of them consider nothing.

Clubs would love to have a limit on what they have to pay to amateurs.

Big league players pay their dues literally and figuratively, wait for a chance at free agency and see that constrained by a rule that is in no way connected to them.

The owners and GMs would certainly prefer not to be held hostage by Scott Boras trying to find ways to circumnavigate the draft.

Naturally clubs like the Rays, who’ve benefited greatly from draft pick compensation, won’t be happy about the phasing out of the current system, but they’re smart and will figure something else out. For example, if there’s a limit to what a draft pick can receive as a bonus, there won’t be the reluctance to draft the best available player based on his agent or demands; signability will no longer be as great a factor.

As the MLB PA and MLB negotiates a new labor agreement, the players weren’t going to fight for amateurs with whom they might never play.

The owners don’t want to finance a new Porsche for a player who’s not a guarantee to be an impact producer in the majors.

It’s rational self-interest, not selfishness and will presumably be the easiest part of the negotiation.

Much like the dispensing of post-season shares where there’s a meeting to discuss how much a player traded at mid-season might get, the players aren’t influenced by perceptions of “right” and “wrong”. One segment will say give them a full share; another will say give them a half-share; a third will say give them a quarter share; and a fourth will say “screw ’em”.

They don’t fight over it because they’re not really bothered; it’s worse with the draft picks; I’m sure the vast majority—if not all—the players in the MLB PA said “screw ’em”.

It may sound selfish and coarse, but this is baseball and business.

And in this case, it’s actually quite fair. Or at least realistic.

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