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August 17, 2009

Prospectus Today

Minding Your Own Business

by Joe Sheehan

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We're about 12 hours from the industry-imposed deadline for players selected in the 2009 Rule 4 draft to sign with the clubs who picked them. Those players who do not reach agreements go back into the 2010 draft pool, with the clubs that failed to sign picks in the first three rounds getting a compensation pick in that draft.

Eighteen first-round selections have signed, but all anyone cares about is one who hasn't. Stephen Strasburg, taken with the first pick by the Nationals, is in the midst of tendentious negotiations with the club, working largely through his advisor, Scott Boras. Arguably the top college pitcher since Mark Prior, Strasburg is attempting to get not just the top signing bonus in draft history, but one significantly higher than that achieved by Prior back in 2001 ($10.5 million total on a major league contract). The argument for his doing so is that he's a comparable or even superior talent, and that we're eight years-and aggressive attempts by the game's administrators to control signing bonuses even above and beyond eliminating competition for the players-past Prior's signing.

You know all this. What I find interesting about this case is how vocal at least one player has been on the issue. Over the weekend, Strasburg's potential teammate, Ryan Zimmerman, was quoted at the Washington Post website by writer Chico Harlan:

"When it comes down to it, Strasburg has to think about, 'Can I go to bed if I turn down $15, 16 million dollars-whatever it is-to pass up the opportunity to play for these guys?' That's a lot of money. I don't understand what he thinks will be better next year. If we don't take him, who's gonna take him next year? Pittsburgh? San Diego? San Diego is not gonna pay him more. Absolutely his leverage will never be higher. Everybody wants to play where they want to play; everybody wants the ideal situation, but that's not the point of the draft. You can't tell people where you want to play. At some point, do it like everybody else has already done it. I agree, he's one of the better college pitchers ever to pitch, but he hasn't proven anything yet."

Maybe it's just me, but I've always found the notion of passing judgment on someone else about what they should work for as distasteful. You get what you negotiate, and it's not up to a third party to decide what's "a lot of money" for one of the two involved. The above quote got a lot of play, in part because Zimmerman was also a top-five draft pick just a few years ago, and so is considered to have comparable experience. He doesn't. Coming out of college, Ryan Zimmerman was nothing like Stephen Strasburg, for one, and for two, who the hell cares what Ryan Zimmerman thinks? Zimmerman doesn't give a tinker's damn ($1, 1912) about Stephen Strasburg; he cares about not having to play third base behind crappy starters for bad teams for the rest of his life. He cares about playing a relevant baseball game in September for the first time ever. He cares, it would appear, about the profit margins of Major League Baseball.

Zimmerman is a company man, and maybe he can be, since he signed a slot deal out of college and garnered a five-year contract this spring after not improving at all from the day he stepped into the league. People care what he thinks because he's one of the best players on the team, and your influence in baseball is pretty strongly correlated to your OPS or ERA, rather than the caliber of your positions. Zimmerman is wrong, though. "At some point, do it like everybody else has done it" is perhaps the weakest argument-for anything-you could possibly put forth. It's "I got mine" in more words, and it is unfortunately the argument that will probably lead to a formal slotting system in the next Collective Bargaining Agreement, as the ones who got theirs trade away the negotiating leverage of unrepresented teenagers in the grand traditions set by the NFL and NBA players.

There are many misconceptions here, some of which I've covered in the past. The primary one is that the draft exists as a mechanism to enhance competitive balance. Even a cursory look at how it came about puts the lie to that; baseball had lousy competitive balance for most of the 20th century, and no one in the game cared. It wasn't until competition via signing bonuses became more of a key component in the acquisition of amateur players that the leagues got together and came up with a system for ending that competition. Any effects on competitive balance were secondary, and arguably unintended. The draft was, and still is, designed only to take away the rights of amateur players to have teams compete for their services.

Couple that with the extended rights that teams have to the players they draft, from six to 11 years, depending on how much time the player spends in the minors and how their major league career is shaped, something over which the player has little control. As a result of those two factors, the time from draft day to the signing deadline is the only time for perhaps a decade-and perhaps ever-that a player has any kind of negotiating leverage. Once he signs with a team, that team owns him until he accumulates six full seasons of major league service time. How can you possibly blame a person for wanting to maximize his return on the only negotiation in which he'll have any leverage for at least six years, possibly an entire decade, and in many cases ever?

The idea, popular among players and ex-players who seem to have no grasp of the structure under which they play, that a draftee should just sign for whatever's available and start his career because he'll get paid if he performs, that's just laughable on its face. If the player survives a decade, sure, he'll have the chance to get paid. But let's look at… well, let's look at Mark Prior. Less than a year after being drafted, Prior was in the majors, making 19 starts for the 2002 Cubs, striking out a ridiculous 147 men in 116 2/3 innings, and generally meeting expectations. The next season, he helped push the Cubs to within four outs of the World Series, posting a 2.43 ERA in 30 starts, finishing third in the NL in ERA, third in the NL Cy Young Award voting, and ninth in the MVP voting.

In the offseason between 2003 and 2004, Bartolo Colon signed for $12.75 million per season. Kevin Millwood got $11 million in a one-year deal. Andy Pettitte signed a back-loaded contract that averaged $10.5 million per season. Sidney Ponson, bless his heart, signed for $7.5 million a year.

In 2004, Prior's salary was $2.1 million, and while we didn't know it then, his career was over. Even though Prior had been one of the very best pitchers in baseball in his first two seasons in the majors, he didn't get paid like it, because the rules aren't set up that way. You only get paid if you're very good at the point where you can take your services to the open market. Do it before then, and you have no leverage. The various players who make the point that amateurs haven't proven anything yet neglect to consider that even if the amateur plays well as a professional, there's no guarantee at all of a big payday. They think you get paid for performance, and while that's partially true, what you actually get paid for is being able to negotiate with multiple teams. Felix Hernandez is making $3.8 million this season; teammate Miguel Batista makes $9 million. You want to argue that performance is the determining factor in salaries?

Mark Prior never, not once, had as much leverage as he did while negotiating with Cubs, even though he was every bit the pitcher they expected him to be. Prior was worked incredibly hard in 2003 as Cubs manager Dusty Baker rode his best starter in both a pennant race and two post-season series. Baker broke him, and Prior doesn't get to go back now and ask for more money.

Stephen Strasburg could do this. Stephen Strasburg could win Rookie of the Year and finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2010, and make $400,000 in 2011. He could be even better in '11, racking up a ton of innings as the Nationals make a wild-card push, and make $400,000 in 2012. The next time Strasburg will be able to do more than just ask for money, entirely at the team's mercy to give it to him, is the winter of 2012-13. The first time he'll be able to negotiate with more than one team is the winter of 2015-16, unless the Nationals diddle with his time on the roster, in which case it'll be 2016-17. That's a long time from now. That's a lot of innings from now, and he might never get there-he might be great, like Prior, out of the box, and never get paid because that's how the system is set up.

So it doesn't really matter what Ryan Zimmerman thinks. It doesn't matter what your local columnist, making $63,000 a year without a fraction of the talent that Stephen Strasburg has, thinks. It doesn't matter what talk-radio hosts, who have the same grasp of sports economics that I do of SQL, think. What matters is that the system is set up to deprive amateur players of any leverage, and when one stands up to that system and tries to make the best possible deal for himself, he shouldn't be excoriated, or labeled as greedy, or derided as "unproven." He should be regarded as a man negotiating a contract, making the same choices we all make, taking the risks involved in going right up to a deadline without blinking. It's his livelihood and his talent on the line, and no one gets to decide for him what "enough" is, not when there may never be any chance to get back to the table and ask for more.

Joe Sheehan is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Joe's other articles. You can contact Joe by clicking here

Related Content:  Ryan Zimmerman,  The Who

114 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

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krissbeth

Hear, hear!

Aug 17, 2009 09:29 AM
rating: 1
 
MarkDuell

Is there something in particular that Zimmerman said that you disagree with? Since when is it wrong for a player to answer a question that is asked of him? I am as free market as anyone you will find, but baseball isn't set up like an ideal free market, and the dollars tossed around are alot bigger than you or I will ever see. It's only natural that public figures are going to be viewed under the microscope, and Strasburg is no different.

Aug 17, 2009 09:32 AM
rating: 15
 
bmarinko

I was wondering the same thing. The column seems like one big over-reaction. Zimmer even says ‘his leverage will never be higher’ which is one of Sheehan’s points. And It does matter what Zimmerman, the local columnist, talk-radio hosts and internet writers think because they are all part of the baseball community. You can’t dismiss them an unimportant just because you don’t agree.

Aug 17, 2009 09:45 AM
rating: 10
 
nghunter

I'd like to add my support for this line of thinking.

Amost everything Zimmerman made sense and I think Joe read into his statements a lot of things that he then takes umbrage with.

Put simply, all Zimmerman is really saying is that it would be foolish to not sign now when his leverage is highest, not that he should take a bad deal or lesser money. And, as a highlight to that point, he points out that Strasburg would probably feel worse going to bed knowing he turned down 15+ million and isn't playing at the highest level than he would leaving a little money on the table.

I love Joe and think he is a great writer and analyst, but I this does smack of screed and one that sets up false straw men to attack (whether they be guised as Zimmerman's opinions or otherwise.)

To argue that the draft's purpose is not to achieve some sort of competitive balance because back in the day it did not is tantamount to arguing that the Constitution is not intended to protect minorites because the Framers didn't set it up that way. Clearly the draft has as its purpose giving an advantage to the weaker teams. You need to look no further than the draft order (and, to some extent, FA compensation bigs (as a good player leaves the team making them weaker, they get a free pick to try to get stronger (particularly when the model is a FA that the team can't afford to resign)) to realize that this is a purpose. Yes, baseball is different than other sports, but this is a fairly universally accepted format and the intent is clear. (You can argue how successfully it's executed.) If that were not the intent, you could easily construct a bidding system (with the money to MLB) rather than a bottom team first draft to allocate the rights.

In the end, Joe had one small point (or perhaps several related points): the amateur baseball draft assigns enormously valuable rights to a team without a player's say beyond his ability to negotiate his first contract. He then poked that point and stretched it in ways that were not entirely related, accurate or fair. This was an emotional piece, not an intellectual one.

Aug 17, 2009 15:32 PM
rating: 8
 
ScottyB

This would be a great article even without Zimmerman's quote as a strawman

Aug 17, 2009 15:38 PM
rating: 0
 
Tuck
(667)

Agree completely. Not to mention, Sheehan doesn't even address the substance of Zimmerman's quote. He's not saying that the kid shouldn't negotiate, or that Strasburg's situation is like his own. He's saying that the kid shouldn't be a dumbass. Zim gives a dollar amount--15 or 16 million. If the Nats offer that and Strasburg says no, then it's malpractice by the adviser and sheer stupidity by the player. Write that column. This is drivel.

Aug 17, 2009 15:47 PM
rating: 4
 
awayish

you guys are missing the real substance of zimmerman's quote, the context in which he talks about the situation, the way he frames the problem as strasburg's higher demand and sense of entitlement. this is a common enough sentiment in the public's view of athletes, but it is also ironic to the extreme since it misrepresents the situation to the disadvantage of players like zimmerman. it is this "class traitor" behavior, to pull a phrase from the mythical past with real politics, that sheehan wanted to grill.

Aug 17, 2009 17:22 PM
rating: 1
 
Clonod

Great column, Joe.

One worry I have though, is that Boras has something of a conflict of interest here.

He is in a position to be far less risk averse with this negotiation than his client.

It could turn out to be GREAT for Boras if Strasburg turns down $20 million and goes and pitches for St. Paul, and falls to the Yankees or some other team willing to give him $35 million next year.

However should something go horribly wrong for Strasburg during his year in the wilderness, Boras can weather it. He has more money than God, benefits from a longview approach, and look, here comes Bryce Harper to try the same game next year and try to remold draft negotiations for the foreseeable future, and make his bevy of clients, collectively, a lot more money.

But Strasburg himself is screwed in this case. The first $20mm is way more important to someone in his financial situaion than the next $15mm. If a deal is presented that can make him financially comfortable for life, it would be tough for a young pitcher to risk that.

I'm not saying that Boras WOULD forsake his client's best interests in favor of the longview. And I'm not saying Strasburg would necessarily let him. But in a negotiation like this, the incentives for risk aversion are extremely unequal for Boras and Strasburg. Something to think about.

Aug 17, 2009 09:35 AM
rating: 15
 
Chad

Which is exactly why Strasburg will probably sign for whatever he and Boras can get out of the Nati(o)nals.

When you're J.D. Drew--the most cited example of Boras' shenanigans--waiting a year and playing somewhere else might not be ideal, but there isn't a great chance your career could end via injury. Every pitch that an elite hurler throws before he signs his deal is another shot at a career-ending injury.

He'll sign. Boras just has to create the illusion that he's capable of getting his clients (even pitchers) to hold out.

Aug 17, 2009 09:52 AM
rating: 5
 
tooci4

To expand on what Clonod is saying, Scott Boras is embroiled in a repeated game of negotiations with MLB teams, with this Stephen Strasburg situation only being the most recent iteration. In such games, it is a great advantage to make your threats credible, which is exactly what Boras can accomplish by pressuring Strasburg to sit out. If Strasburg sits out, this is a huge win for Boras because the threat of having future draft picks sit out will be more credible, but it's hard to imagine it being beneficial for the young pitcher.
This is troubling, because even though Ryan Zimmerman's interests aren't aligned with Strasburg's, at least he can't actually affect the negotiations. Boras can.

Aug 17, 2009 10:26 AM
rating: 5
 
losermix

All of these comments are only valid if you presuppose that Boras is set on manipulating the draft for his own selfish ends at the expense of what his clients want. Although this may be possible, I don't really see any evidence of this ever actually happening. Has a Boras client ever come out and said, "I wanted to sign but Mr. Boras wouldn't let me?" Maybe, but I must have missed it. It seems to me that ultimately, his clients make the decisions and he does his best to effectuate them. If Strasburg ultimately decides he needs __ million dollars to sign and won't sign for anything less, that's his prerogative and Boras' responsibility to make sure he does everything he can to get that kind of money.
After all, maybe Strasburg really doesn't want to go to the Nationals and is making them pay some artificial premium and is hoping to go somewhere else next year.

Aug 17, 2009 13:12 PM
rating: 1
 
Clonod

I disagree. Not only is it in Boras' personal best interests, but more importantly it's in his clients' collective best interests for him to have a different risk analysis than any one individual client.

For example, Strasburg himself stands to make more money right now because of Boras' actions with Hochevar, Drew, Scherzer, and a host of others. It's probably a primary reason Strasburg hired him.

And if Boras can make an example out of Strasburg, Bryce Harper and a hundred other clients will make a lot more money.

So it isn't about pure self-interest.

For the record, I don't think it will come to this. I think Strasburg signs, and for an awful lot of money.



Aug 17, 2009 13:27 PM
rating: 1
 
tooci4

Note that, as of a few weeks ago at least, Strasburg said he had not once been in contact with the Nationals. Boras appears to be in complete control. While the decision obviously lies with Strasburg in the end, Boras is the expert, so you know that his opinion and interests are being represented in the discussions.

Aug 17, 2009 13:55 PM
rating: 2
 
jdseal

As Zimmerman points out, Strasburg is NOT going to fall to the Yankees next time around.

Aug 17, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: 3
 
alaime

Maybe its been done and I've missed it, but I'd like to see an article on the value of these draft picks. Are most of them busts, how many fail to make it to the bigs, how many make an all-star team, is a #1 worth $10 mill, etc.?

Aug 17, 2009 09:40 AM
rating: 1
 
Paul Andrew Burnett

Search the archives. Rany Jazayerli did a whole series on the draft for BP a few years ago.

Aug 17, 2009 10:23 AM
rating: 3
 
baserip4

Similarly, The Hardball Times took a look at the value of hitting and pitching prospects.

http://www.hardballtimes.com/main/article/the-bright-side-of-losing-santana/

Aug 17, 2009 11:33 AM
rating: -1
 
SC

It seems that if Strasburg refuses to sign because of a difference of $10m or less, he's making a mistake, shortening his career by a year, and therefore the opportunities to get paid. Sure, if he doesn't have a career longer than six years, holding out for the maximum possible contract makes some sense, but there is a significant financial cost to Strasburg if he fails to sign and misses a year of baseball.

Aug 17, 2009 09:43 AM
rating: 2
 
phuturephillies

The easy solution to the entire draft mess is to go to hard slotting and reduce the number of years that a player has before he goes on the 40 man (to 3 and 4 respectively), and then reduce the number of team controlled years from 6 to 5.

Because of the attrition rate of prospects in general, you can understand MLB teams wanting to limit the money spent before the player has ever reached the majors (or even the upper level of the minors), but if thats the case, and they want the player to perform before they pay up, then they should lose some of the player's long term control.

The other option, which is even more radical, is just to get rid of the draft all together and let anyone sign any player. Why not? As it stands now, the worst teams aren't getting the worst talent, so its the system that is basically already in place.

Aug 17, 2009 09:45 AM
rating: 2
 
SC

This is an interesting idea, but needs some modification, perhaps an age + years system for service time. 40 man rosters don't have room for prospects drafted or signed as teenagers, who still aren't anywhere close to the Show at 20 or 21. If anything, this idea would decrease the value of teenage prospects, since the added development time brings with it roster problems, making teams more inclined to draft more finished products from college.

Aug 17, 2009 12:12 PM
rating: 0
 
phuturephillies

worst teams aren't getting the best talent, is what that should say. oy.

Aug 17, 2009 09:47 AM
rating: 1
 
steve.k

tendentious?????

Aug 17, 2009 09:48 AM
rating: 1
 
Leitch

http://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/TENDENTIOUS

Aug 17, 2009 13:01 PM
rating: -1
 
Chad

My simple suggestion for the whole draft/arbitration/indentured servitude issue is: why not have arbitration start in year 1? Or year 2?

Let the player be under team control for the same number of years, but force the team to pay closer to true market value instead of a ridiculously deflated price for the first handful of years.

You're still trying to create parity by giving the worst teams the best players, and you're still allowing teams to recoup costs and risks associated with drafting and developing players, but you're giving players a fair salary.

What's not to like, other than that the owners will have to pony up more for their superstar prospects and young major leaguers, both of which seem eminently fair?

Aug 17, 2009 09:56 AM
rating: 0
 
jayman4

As a fan of small market team, I disagree with Joe's assertion that the draft is just there to deprive the players of money. Maybe that is what the league wants, but the system is close to being a quasi-FA system. Since the only way small market teams can compete to to build the farm, not being able to acquire the best amateur talent is further tilting the field against them. I don't like owners, but I do want competitive balance.

As Goldman points out on his articles, there should not be a question whether the Nationals would select Strasburg. He is the best talent, they were the worst team. There is a tension between allowing a quasi-FA slot system (that is how the players would maximize their bonus) and a mechanism to allow weaker franchises access to top amateur talent. Joe seems to suggest the slotting system is just a cash grab and nothing to do with competitive balance. Perhaps, but until there is something in place that allows a more equitable playing field between the teams (e.g. revenue sharing), the draft is vital for smaller payroll teams.

Aug 17, 2009 09:56 AM
rating: 3
 
kcboomer

What Zimmerman did was no worse than what the author did, only Zimmerman was more tactful. Unlike the author Zimmerman has "skin in the game". His livelihood will be directly effected by these negotiations. The author?? Not so much.

If Strasburg doesn't want to sign for the dough offered that's fine, but let's not sit on a holier-than-thou platform and whine because someone directly effected by Strasburg's decision is not happy about it.

Aug 17, 2009 09:58 AM
rating: 3
 
TaylorSanders

Zimmerman passed judgment on Strasburg for not signing. Sheehan defended Strasburg. They aren't the same. Yes Zimmerman has a stake but he wasn't just saying that he hoped Strasburg would sign, he said that Strasburg 'should' sign and implied that he was being greedy and selfish by not doing so. Sheehan just exposed Zimmerman's position. There is no parallel.

Aug 17, 2009 12:28 PM
rating: 5
 
akodobill

The problem with this thinking is that it puts all of the risk on the team. If drafted players got salaries comparable to established players, a team that gets a couple of draft busts would be severely handicapped in trying to improve their team through free agency or other draft picks.

Draft players should not get paid like a top performer until they prove that they are top performers.

Aug 17, 2009 10:00 AM
rating: -3
 
baserip4

And if they prove they are a top performer they shouldn't get paid until they have six years of service time.

Aug 17, 2009 11:35 AM
rating: 1
 
akodobill

I never said that. In fact, I agree with the poster who suggested arbitration should start a lot sooner. Maybe their second full year?

Aug 17, 2009 16:08 PM
rating: 0
 
mikebuetow

Somewhere, Charlie Finley is smiling.

Aug 17, 2009 19:02 PM
rating: -1
 
fgreenagel2

That's wonderful.

Aug 17, 2009 22:13 PM
rating: -1
 
joheimburger

Barry Zito, Alfonso Soriano and Vernon Wells all agree with you

Aug 17, 2009 14:05 PM
rating: 1
 
akodobill

Bad GMs are always going to exist.

Aug 17, 2009 16:16 PM
rating: 0
 
victor19nyc

But what if they do?

Take Tim Lincecum who signed for just over $2 million in 2006. His 2009 salary is $0.650 million. By way of comparison old and broken Randy Johnson is making $8 mil and Barry Zito is making $18.5 million. Who's the most valuable?

The model of deferred compensation once hitting the open market will leave Lincecum with considerably lower compensation relative to his performance if he goes the way of Mark Prior in the next year or two. If the draft stays similar to what it is now (exclusive rights to the drafting team) then what's needed are significant salary escalators if a player exceeds expectations in the first six years.

For instance, you can index it to something like VORP and the highest salary at said position on a given team. As an example, Lincecum's VORP is currently about 3 1/2 times higher than Zito's (58.4 to 16.6), so multiply Zito's salary by 3.5 and pay Lincecum that amount (a staggering $65 mil). It'll pay the emerging young stars and hopefully lead to more prudent spending in the free agent market. A crazy idea that will never happen.

Aug 17, 2009 14:09 PM
rating: -3
 
LindInMoskva

Draft compensation has to consider risk. Cherry picking stars give the appearance that young recently drafted players are bargains, but consider that while Lincecum was a bargain, the Rockies are paying Greg Reynolds 3.25M for a 2-8 8.13 62 IP career. The first 10 players drafted that year got $26,925,000 which seems about right to pay for Hochevar, Reynolds, Longoria, Lincoln, Morrow, Miller, Kershaw, Stubbs, Rowell, and Lincecum. That is an aggregate 84-85 4.17 era pitcher line, plus Longoria.

Aug 18, 2009 09:03 AM
rating: 1
 
cdoyle31

Yes, Vishnu forbid that a billionaire owner be out a couple of million bucks when a kid blows out his arm and never hits 90 again. You're right; let's transfer all that risk to a 20-year-old and his family who have spent thousands preparing him for a professional career. Why not make the players pay for the right to prove themselves to you and the clubs? We can't possibly ask them to take on risk.

Aug 17, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 2
 
akodobill

In the current status quo, the owner already has the risk of paying the unproven kid millions of dollars in initial signing bonuses. The family can get by fine with that, I imagine.

Aug 17, 2009 16:15 PM
rating: 0
 
akodobill

Just to clarify, I'm saying that the current signing bonus level allows teams to have busts without getting crippled. If Boras had his way and could get star-level contracts for his players before they played a pro game, a team that drafts a pitcher who gets hurt and a shortstop who doesn't make it is in a very bad position.

Aug 17, 2009 16:19 PM
rating: 0
 
cdoyle31

You're completely satisfied with being the arbiter of what's "good enough" for Strasburg's, or any other player's, family? You're bolder than I, friend.

And who, exactly, is to say that every prospect would get a star-level salary? You're making a pretty big assumption. It's condescending of fans to believe that clubs need to be saved from themselves, yet that's what everyone seems to blithely believe. George Steinbrenner could not and would not sign every amateur player to a $20 million contract, and we know this because the international market is currently an open-bidding system, and the Yankees haven't monopolized that.

But that's beside the point. I still chuckle at the willingness of people to dictate to others what amounts to fair compensation, provided that compensation comes as a result of athletics (my implication being you would not open yourself to such examination personally, with respect to your professional compensation). These people aren't providing a public service, yet we seem to think we should be able to treat them as such.

Aug 17, 2009 17:03 PM
rating: 1
 
Telnar

How about letting Boras's risk neutrality benefit his client? What if Boras in effect offers Strassburg a $2m disability insurance policy (paying him the difference if he makes less than $2m in his career, perhaps because of an injury in an independent league) in exchange for an extra 10% of any bonus he gets next year in excess of the Nationals final offer.

Aug 17, 2009 10:01 AM
rating: 2
 
emanski

I think fans understand negotiating and leverage, on average maybe better than Ryan Zimmerman. What we don't understand is not signing when not signing has little chance of being better than losing the negotiation and signing for less than beyond the dreams of avarice. It's wrong to think, as many fans do, that "X million is enough, just sign," but for college juniors at least, it's demonstrably right to feel that "X million is greater than 0 million, just sign."

I think the average fan thinks your leverage as a player is two months and a midnight hammer deadline. At that point, we would figure, you've made more or less ground compared to your fellow negotiator, and you sign for the best you could do. Boras sees a bigger picture than that, which is great for him, but I don't see anything wrong with fans and even players sharing their thoughts, which are just opinions and, in a way, an X factor in negotiations, since opinions could go either way and influence either side.

Aug 17, 2009 10:04 AM
rating: 1
 
lynchjm
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Everything Zimmerman said is correct. I can see why that is so upsetting to Joe.

Hopefully Strasburg is smarter then Matt Harrington.

Aug 17, 2009 10:12 AM
rating: -4
 
topesrule
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The site has a ton of reasons to recommend it, but I wouldn't count the political and labor positions among them.

You can't spell MLBPA without BP.

Aug 17, 2009 10:19 AM
rating: -9
 
airlifting
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It is losing those reasons.

Aug 17, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: -6
 
David Coonce

Not sure what you mean - fair trade, competition, free markets - aren't those all actually very conservative labor/ political philosophies? And aren't those philosophies what Sheehan is supporting here?

Simply put, he is advocating for pure, free-market capitalism deciding a player's worth, not some kind of heavy-handed top-down bureaucracy, as we have now. Let the free market rule in this case, I say.

Aug 17, 2009 11:13 AM
rating: 1
 
victor19nyc

The question is: how do you implement it? The inverted draft is supposed to allow for the worst teams the opportunity to draft the best available players first, thus distributing the talent pool thus improving competition across the league. The true "free market" part of all this comes in free agency, but the problem is properly compensating guys who become stars before they reach free agency.

I agree that one way of dealing with the situation is to allow the trading of draft picks, but only for other players and/or draft slots (not cash). That way if the Yankees want to spend $50 mil to have a crack at Strasburg (because the Nats don't want to) they can ship over some talent in return.

Aug 17, 2009 14:42 PM
rating: 0
 
baserip4

More money for the owners!

Aug 17, 2009 11:37 AM
rating: 0
 
brain1081

I would like to know if players actually do get a bigger offer after sitting out a year when they are picked in the first round. Especially guys that are done with college and can only go play independent league ball.

Aug 17, 2009 10:16 AM
rating: 3
 
lynchjm

Let's break it down:
"When it comes down to it, Strasburg has to think about, 'Can I go to bed if I turn down $15, 16 million dollars—whatever it is—to pass up the opportunity to play for these guys?'

This is exactly what it comes down to.

"That's a lot of money."

It is a lot of money.

"I don't understand what he thinks will be better next year."

Pretty obvious it won't be better.

"If we don't take him, who's gonna take him next year? Pittsburgh? San Diego? San Diego is not gonna pay him more."

Exactly right. They will take him expecting to pay even LESS. Although there is a chance that Joe's Mets juggernaut could be picking 2nd :).

"Absolutely his leverage will never be higher."

Check

"Everybody wants to play where they want to play; everybody wants the ideal situation, but that's not the point of the draft. You can't tell people where you want to play."

Exactly true. This is the reality.

"At some point, do it like everybody else has already done it."

If I were him I'd feel the same way.

"I agree, he's one of the better college pitchers ever to pitch, but he hasn't proven anything yet."

Also true.

So a 100 true statement draws a 1500 rant that doesn't really have anything to do with Zimmerman's points except when it agrees with him.

Aug 17, 2009 10:18 AM
rating: 5
 
jetson
(660)

Bingo. And then there's this gem from said rant:

"You get what you negotiate, and it’s not up to a third party to decide what’s "a lot of money" for one of the two involved. "

There are a lot of things on which reasonable minds can disagree. The notion that Strasburg has been offered "a lot of money" is not one of those things.

Aug 17, 2009 10:42 AM
rating: 1
 
jpaternostro

My response to this is if Strasburg was a free agent, right now, how much would he get? Yeah, twenty million is more than just about everyone posting at this site will ever see, but it is not that much in baseball dollars. For example, it is half of what Carlos Silva got paid. And Silva had given us about as much evidence that he would be a capable major league starter over the life of the contract as Strasburg has.

Aug 17, 2009 10:45 AM
rating: 4
 
lynchjm

We all know he'd get tens of millions more if he was a free agent. It doesn't change the fact that $16 million dollars is 'a lot of money'. It is quite obviously, a lot of money.

Aug 17, 2009 10:48 AM
rating: 0
 
losermix

I don't think the issue is whether $16 million is "a lot of money." Objectively, it is. I do disagree that a) he can't expect to do better next year and b) his leverage won't be any higher next year. You can draw all the parallels to Matt Harrington you want, but no one was calling Harrington one of the best college pitchers ever and the best prospect in the history of the draft or whatever other superlatives have been attached to him. If Strasburg believes that he can get more money/a better situation next year, then he's entitled to take that risk. And I don't see how his leverage changes one way or the other this year as opposed to next. He's a unique talent, as long as he doesn't suffer a catastrophic injury his leverage shouldn't change all that much.

Aug 17, 2009 13:21 PM
rating: -1
 
psugator01

he loses leverage because then he's a college senior and has nowhere else to go but independent ball and wait another year to get drafted. Then he loses even more leverage. It's pretty simple.

Aug 17, 2009 17:27 PM
rating: 1
 
joheimburger

But a lot of money relative to his talent level is very, very debatable.

Aug 17, 2009 14:08 PM
rating: 0
 
silviomossa

I'm glad you broke it down like this. People are overreacting to his quote, and he didn't say anything off at all. He was, if anything, restrained and diplomatic.

And though I love Joe's columns, and they are always the first thing that I go to when he's posts one on a given day, when I see him write "who the hell cares what Ryan Zimmerman thinks?", I think, if you don't then why center an entire column around his quote?

Aug 17, 2009 18:46 PM
rating: 2
 
skipthorpe

Totally agree and...

Zimmerman is just like Strasburg. He's trying to do what's best for himself - encouraging / cajoling the kid to join up with his team, raising his own image in the eyes of the fans and front office and (maybe, just maybe) giving the kid the sincere and well intended advice.

If Strasburg should be left to make his own decision (and he was), then Zimmerman has the right to speak out and say what he wants to in representing his own interests.

Love ya, Joe. With you on the draft being slanted in the owners favor. Serious overkill on Zimmerman, though.

Aug 18, 2009 12:10 PM
rating: 1
 
Aaron Whitehead

I've never understood the "you're not in the game, you don't understand" attitude. It's the insular, fraternal order side of baseball at work.
I also don't understand the argument that Strasburg doesn't "deserve" the money or hasn't "earned" it. This argument falls apart on anything but a humanistic level. No baseball player DESERVES $50 million when teachers and firefighters are so underpaid. But this is the price of doing business in capitalism. Supply and demand is a hard beast to tame, and the current draft isn't doing it.
And why must the MLB players continue to actively deny the rights of minor leaguers and amateur draftees? How vain must you be to fail to recognize yourself in these people? And how ethical (and legal) is it for amateur players to have no say at all in how the draft is developed. It's in the hands of those with conflicting interests. The more complicated the draft gets, the more I think that someday Scott Boras really WILL come up with the lawsuit that "breaks" the draft.

Aug 17, 2009 10:29 AM
rating: 5
 
ravenight

I think the point is that many people think holding out for an extra million or two tacked onto a $15 million deal is superfluous or stupid compared to getting his career started and striving for greatness. Not greatness for the sake of an even larger payday, but for the sake of the game. You may think that's dumb, but it's the reason that salary negotiations always leave a bad taste in the mouth of fans.

Strasburg is set for life either way, even if he never signs another deal, so why should anyone, particularly a Nats fan, have sympathy for his need to squeeze out every dollar? Sure, the owners don't deserve that money any more (and perhaps less) than Strasburg does, but this is exactly why a slotting system would be better - it avoids a silly game of chicken that sometimes ends up with everyone worse off.

Also, I'm pretty sure that Zimmerman, regardless of what you think of the exact figure he named, was simply saying that Strasburg needs to sign, not that he shouldn't negotiate the best deal he can get before signing. And he's right - if Strasburg goes back in the draft, there's a very good chance he will not get as much next year as if he takes a reasonable offer from the Nats (assuming they make one).

Aug 17, 2009 10:46 AM
rating: 0
 
cdoyle31

You may think that's dumb

No, I think it's naive. I also think if someone told you to do your job for the love of it, and disregard raises/promotions/a meaningful salary, you'd laugh in their face.

Aug 17, 2009 14:49 PM
rating: 2
 
rguerin

There's an obvious "solution" albeit not a cure-all -- allow the trading of draft picks and unsigned draftees. Whether Strasburg is indeed a once-in-a-lifetime talent shouldn't be left solely to the Nationals to decide. If the Yankees, Sox, Mets, Dodgers (whomever...) believe that Strasburg's talent is indeed legendary, then allow them to trade for that potential.

It's time for major league baseball to join the 21st century. (Fat chance with the current administration...)

Aug 17, 2009 10:49 AM
rating: 1
 
Edwincnelson

The draft isn't "fair" and really can't be. No one has the "right" to a fair negotiation with an organization like MLB, or the NBA or NFL. If the draft was "fair" and amateur players could negotiate with any team when the declare out of high school or college the whole system would collapse.

It's simple. The Yankees have to play someone, and that someone has to have a way to access young talent in a cost controlled manner. Is it fair? No. Does that matter at all? No. Not if the league is going to prosper. The most successful sports league in the country is the NFL and their system is probably less fair (no guaranteed contracts) than the MLB's. Everything Zimmerman says is correct, and in the end Strasburg should negotiate as best as possible until the last minute, and the sign on the dotted line.

Aug 17, 2009 11:05 AM
rating: 0
 
Edwincnelson

Oh, I totally agree with rguerin that draft picks should be able to be traded. It works in the NFL and the NBA.

Aug 17, 2009 11:07 AM
rating: -1
 
fguttman

"Stephen Strasburg could win Rookie of the Year and finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2010, and make $400,000 in 2011"

He would only make $400,000 in SALARY, but you have to factor in the signing bonus. A $16m signing bonus at 5% annual return would be worth $21.4m over 6 years.

Aug 17, 2009 11:13 AM
rating: 2
 
baserip4

Well, yes, which is EXACTLY why it's ludicrous to criticize him for pushing for as high a signing bonus as possible.

Aug 17, 2009 11:39 AM
rating: 5
 
Stinneford1
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Exactly. That was left out , wasn't it? Convenient.

Aug 17, 2009 11:50 AM
rating: -4
 
Matthew Avery

Take away half of that for taxes, etc., etc.

I will say that the $400,000 figure is somewhat misleading, since he'll almost certainly get some endorsement money along the way.

Aug 17, 2009 14:45 PM
rating: 0
 
jclaffs

Beautiful job, Joe. Americans are too willing to buy the company line in general, but especially when the laborers are "playing a kid's game."

Aug 17, 2009 11:29 AM
rating: 3
 
emanski

The draft mitigates a prospect's need to thrive. This is a relatively fair exchange of leverage. Sans draft, a prospect must choose a balance between dollars and prestige. The more prestigious the ballclub, the greater the risk of failure to thrive, no matter how much money is at stake.

Based on what happens in the hundreds of leagues around the world that have open markets, one would conclude there is absolutely no way Stephen Strasburg could command a fraction of $50M in an open market.

Aug 17, 2009 11:30 AM
rating: 0
 
molnar
(170)

well, maybe *one* would.

Aug 17, 2009 11:43 AM
rating: 0
 
emanski

Hey, I'm all for breaking it down. I'd find it highly engaging if someone were to research and write a story tracking Strasburg's value in a hypothetical no-draft market.

Aug 17, 2009 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
joheimburger

Just wait a couple months, see what Aroldis Chapman gets and know that it would be considerably more.

Dice-K got over $100 million in salary + posting fee.

Aug 17, 2009 14:24 PM
rating: -1
 
Schlom

You can't compare Dice-K and Strasburg because Dice-K was way, way, way more accomplished than Strasburg. Not only did he have 8 seasons under his belt in the Japanese majors, but was also the best pitcher in the 2006 WBC and probably the best pitcher in the 2004 Olympics. Compare that to Strasburg who has had just two good years in the Mountain West Conference and wasn't the ace on the 2008 Olympic team.

Aug 17, 2009 14:42 PM
rating: 0
 
mikebuetow

It may be the way you worded that, but in fact Dice-K received far less than $100 million. Perhaps you meant to write that the Red Sox paid $100+ million for him.

Dice-K received $52 million over six years, $2 million signing bonus, $6 million next year, $8 million in each of the following three seasons and $10 million in each of the final two years. The deal includes $8 million in escalators based on awards that could mean he earns $60 million over six years. It's a lot of green, but way short of $100 million.

The Seibu Lions, his former team in Japan, received $51.11 million.

Aug 17, 2009 19:08 PM
rating: 1
 
johnpark99

From Joe's article: "Zimmerman doesn’t give a tinker’s damn ($1, 1912) about Stephen Strasburg; he cares about not having to play third base behind crappy starters for bad teams for the rest of his life. He cares about playing a relevant baseball game in September for the first time ever. He cares, it would appear, about the profit margins of Major League Baseball."

Wow.

As for the first two sentences here, I'd hope to goodness that Zimm cares about his team's chances at winning, and if that's all he cares about with respect to the Strasburg negotiation--whether or not he really cares about Strasburg's personal well-being--I don't think that makes him such an awful person necessarily.

As for the last sentence, that's just a completely unsubstantiated shot at Zimm--one that doesn't qualify as journalism nor the type of insightful analysis that we are used to from Joe.

For me, Joe went 1-for-5 with an infield single today. Pujols has bad days too, sometimes.

Aug 17, 2009 11:38 AM
rating: 10
 
airlifting

this article is a bit more Milton Bradley than a bad day for Albert Pujols.

Aug 17, 2009 14:17 PM
rating: 4
 
TaylorSanders

This article was definitely enlightening for me. It changed my whole perspsective on the issue. I do wish there was some way to allow weaker teams an advantage in acquiring young talent. What I'm wondering is why can't young players sign incentive heavy contracts? Why can't Strasburg get a $5million bonus if he has WARP better than 6 or something like that? Do the rules prevent that? I can't blame these guys for trying to get as much as they can for signing when they have no leverage for such a long time after that.

Aug 17, 2009 12:17 PM
rating: -3
 
John Collins
(110)

Yes, the rules prevent that. Bonuses can only be for things like innings, games, starts, and not for *quality* of performance.

Aug 17, 2009 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
gtgator

"So it doesn’t really matter what Ryan Zimmerman thinks. It doesn’t matter what your local columnist, making $63,000 a year without a fraction of the talent that Stephen Strasburg has, thinks. It doesn’t matter what talk-radio hosts, who have the same grasp of sports economics that I do of SQL, think."

And I guess it doesn't matter what Joe Sheehan thinks then, either.

Playing baseball is a privilege - not a right. Strasburg has every right to choose another profession if he doesn't feel he is being treated fairly by MLB.

Is it "fair" the he is forced into servitutde for 6-7 years at such horrible wages? No. But it also isn't "fair" for CEOs to take home millions despite employees losing their jobs or for rookies like Strasburg to make 10 times what a teacher makes for playing a game instead of shaping future minds. But, hey, who said life was fair?

In reality Strasburg (or any draftee) can take the millions he's been offered and enter MLB. Or not and enter another profession. Either way, he'll still be able to gripe and moan about how much more money his bosses make or his "lesser" co-workers make simply because they have more time on the job. He'll just likely do so in a nicer house and with a nicer car than most if he does so in the MLB system.

Aug 17, 2009 12:30 PM
rating: -2
 
John Collins
(110)

I think you're missing the point. Joe means that when the issue is "whether, and for how much, Strasburg should sign" then what Zimmerman et al think doesn't matter. Joe is not offering an alternative answer to the question from what Zimmerman et al have said; he's saying it should be up to Zimmerman (and the Nationals of course).

Aug 17, 2009 16:50 PM
rating: -1
 
bmarinko

Of course its up to zimmerman to decide. That doesn't mean other people can't comment on the situation and give their opinions.

Aug 18, 2009 06:48 AM
rating: -1
 
bmarinko

Whoops, replace 'Zimmerman' with 'Strasburg' in that last reply.

Aug 18, 2009 06:54 AM
rating: 0
 
psugator01

wow, what a myopic, one sided article with a lot of extreme examples used to try to influence the reader. This isn't the same market as 2003-04 anymore and Strasburg isn't a free agent. We could cite free agent contracts all day long that made younger, cost controlled players look underpaid, but there's no point to it.

As for your extreme example that "Stephen Strasburg could win Rookie of the Year and finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2010, and make $400,000 in 2011. He could be even better in '11, racking up a ton of innings as the Nationals make a wild-card push, and make $400,000 in 2012." you're conveniently forgetting the 15-20 million dollar bonus he got just for signing his name. While we're on extreme examples, he could just as easily blow out his arm/shoulder and never make the majors a la Brien Taylor and give the Nats nothing on their investment. The reality is most likely between the two.

I dont blame him for trying to get every penny he feels he's worth, but there's a difference between perception and reality in most cases. If he passes on a bonus larger than anyone in the history of the draft because he feels he's worth more then he is indeed a fool. Is the risk to go back to college or an Independent League worth a few million dollars when any chance of injury or poor performance might cost him even more money next year? Aaron Crow is finding out the hard way that even though he pitched well this year that he may not make much more than he was offered last year. A year pretty much wasted for Crow and his development. If Mr. Strasburg ever goes into Costco in Texas, perhaps he should look for Matt Harrington and ask his advice. For those of you that don't know his story, the link is below.

http://badwax.net/2009/08/01/campus-legends-matt-harrington/

Aug 17, 2009 12:41 PM
rating: 1
 
tiggerv

I think you missed badly on this one Joe. I thought Zimm was 100% on the mark.

Aug 17, 2009 12:45 PM
rating: 6
 
Bill N

1. Stephen Strasburg probably has signed a "loss of talent" insurance policy with Lloyds of London, and is probably set for life even if both his arms were to fall off tomorrow. Maybe not $15 million set, but probably-retiring-very-young set.

2. An ad hominem attack on Zimmerman for not having improved is ridiculous.

3. An ad hominem attack on a newspaper writer for making as much money as he does is even moreso.

Aug 17, 2009 12:46 PM
rating: 17
 
jdseal

Here's a suggestion.

I'm not talking about the whole draft, not even a couple rounds, but the guys signing major league contracts (rather than minor league; going right on the 40-man, if I understand correctly) with mega-bonuses, why not heavily incentive-laden contracts?

Instead of $15 million signing bonuses or whatever, take $3 million (still no poor house) and sign a contract that starts paying you like a post-free-agency performer, if/when you perform like one. That reduces some risk for the teams, allows "small market" teams to have a chance to sign top guys they draft without leveraging the major league roster, and it would have gotten Mark Prior paid like Pettitte and Colon for his first few (productive) years. When Boras lays out his argument and says, "my guy is going to do X and Y and Z", a team can respond "and when he does, he gets his 20 mill"

Aug 17, 2009 12:53 PM
rating: 0
 
jpaternostro

Sure, but here's the thing. No free agent contract in baseball history has been built that way. It's predicated on an assumed future production. Sure, there are incentives, escalators and stuff, but any team makes a decision, we think you are worth x number of dollars over y seasons and we are going to pay you it regardless, because baseball talent is incredibly scarce.

And if you buy the stats/scouts on Strasburg, he is a once in a generation player. There is no way he should be assuming the majority of the risk, or, more specifically, should his agent allow him too. 25 million prorated over six years is a pittiance for even a number five starter. If your scouts say he can come up and be an effective major league pitcher, pay him as such. Or keep him for a year and flip him for established prospects at a lower cost if economics is the issue. Or, don't get a deal done and keep being the Nationals.

Aug 17, 2009 13:35 PM
rating: -3
 
jdseal

I'm not really suggesting that the player assume the majority of the risk, but rather some sort of splitting of the risk, between team and player; still a large signing bonus or guaranteed money, just not a huge one. And its more than risk, in the sense of risk of injury, there's also just some unproven, unknown element of the commodity, so it's leaving the question open until more facts are revealed.

Aug 18, 2009 06:10 AM
rating: 0
 
Mountainhawk
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It'll be a national holiday the day Boras dies or retires.

Aug 17, 2009 13:36 PM
rating: -27
 
Schlom

If it's not a good idea to sign a free-agent coming off his only good year then why exactly is it a good idea to give a huge contract to Strasburg? Isn't Strasburg basically a guy coming off a "career year?" Granted he's young so you are hoping that this year was just the tip of the iceberg but doesn't the same principle apply?

Aug 17, 2009 13:45 PM
rating: 3
 
amazin_mess

Strasburg will be one of the most hated players in the game if he rejects that offer.

Aug 17, 2009 14:15 PM
rating: -3
 
amazin_mess

Not sure about Baker breaking Mark Prior. Sure he worked him, but that was six years ago. Prior is as fragile as 100-year-old china.

Aug 17, 2009 14:28 PM
rating: -3
 
marshaja

Joe,

I love how, when you have a strong opinion about something you keep pushing with it. That's what make Prospectus Today my favorite (and sometimes least favorite) article to read, but it seems as if you are using this article to springboard another ethics argument.

Whether a baseball columnist or a guy in Indiana reading him agree with the structure or not is not the point. In the real world, if he doesn't get signed it's a lose-lose situation for both parties involved and they both know it, which is why it'll probably be hammered out in the 11th hour.

I understand in a perfect world Strassberg would sign a CC like contract, but in the real world, there's a very small chance that he makes more entering next year's draft and a monumentally larger chance that his stock drops or even worse he gets hurt and has no leverage.

I've heard talks of him pitching independently if he can't reach an agreement. Wouldn't he go back to SDSU for his senior year in this case or has he stated somewhere he's done with that?

Aug 17, 2009 14:39 PM
rating: 1
 
metfanaaron2001

I think one theme that comes up here is whether or not normal labor and free-market "rules" should apply when talking about so many millions of dollars.

I would tend to air on the side that they don't. Joe Sheehan is spot on when he talks about the unfairness of players having no choice in what team they are assigned to for six years, etc, but I feel when we get to money issues he is off the mark.

It's important for players to have leverage, but I really can't find any tears for Stephen Strasburg and his ilk if he only manages to get 15-20 million in this draft market, as opposed to 50+ million if he were a free agent.

I also had a big issue with his Mark Prior example:

1. His injury wasn't expected. Even Dusty Baker in his stupidity wasn't trying to save the Cubs millions during Prior's two years and blow out his arm just before he would have "had" to be paid. He just wasn't thinking at all.

2. If Mark Prior never had his injury, he would have made absurd amounts of money, with the Cubs or just about anyone else, and his story wouldn't really be all that relatable to the draft.

3. The only way Joe can relate Prior's injury back to the draft is almost to suggest that 1. Prior's injury was inevitable and 2. the Cubs, or baseball's system, should have paid him like he was a free agent during the brief period when he was actually good. If this actually happened, if Prior got some kind of 6 year, 120 million deal the day he signed, the Cubs would have been completely hamstrung by the ensuing injury. Why is that any better or more fair than what actually happened to Prior?

Aug 17, 2009 14:54 PM
rating: -3
 
amazin_mess
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If Strasburg passes on that money, he's the biggest idiot in the entire sports world because he'll never come close to it a year from now. Actually, I hope he passes and screws himself.

Aug 17, 2009 15:05 PM
rating: -8
 
John Collins
(110)

It's so nice to hear the voice of reason, G and B.

Aug 17, 2009 16:55 PM
rating: 3
 
abcjr2

I read this on ESPN's site a couple of minutes ago:

"SI.com reported Monday that the Nationals' offer to Strasburg was approximately $12.5 million. Mark Prior received the highest contract ever given to a draft pick when he got $10.5 million from the Cubs in 2001."

The article ran with a video in which the ESPN Reporter claimed this was going to the last minute because "that's the way Scott Boras always runs this thing ..." and repeated the team's line that this was "more than any previous draft pick has gotten."

I am always amused at how reporters are willing to adopt the company talking points and play them back in news stories.

Here's a guess -- the Nats are willing to go to $21 million in total for the first three years (bonus and salary combined) and the GM, Rizzo, has offered only a little over half of his bargaining authority to this point.

Aug 17, 2009 15:32 PM
rating: -1
 
saramaki


I'm not a GM, so I won't comment on what Strasburg should get, and I'm not a player, so I won't comment on Zimmerman. But I AM a reader of newspapers, and I'm very happy about Mr. Sheehan taking shots at newspaper columnists who crank out why-are-they-paid-so-much fluff garbage. We've had this Michael Crabtree thing going here, and I'm sick of columnists milking it for twenty more inches. And that's after three years of why-can-Zito-live-with-that-salary columns. Aren't there enough interesting topics in sports that columnists can come up with something that's not just another rant? Man, you can write a column each on Crabtree and Strasburg, and you'd have done half a week's worth of work in the time it takes to do two Mad Libs!

And why is it so hard for non-athletes to understand that these guys SHOULD negotiate each contract like it's the last one they'll get? You practically have to set yourself up for life every time you get ready to sign a contract. That just seems like common sense to me. So he wants twenty-something million? Maybe he wants to buy everyone his family a house and a car and still have money left over to not have to worry about going broke the rest of his life. That seems fair. Or what if he ends up having a kid with some terrible medical condition, and it requires 24-hour care by nurses for the rest of the kid's life? Wouldn't you want to be ready for something like that, financially, if you had the chance?

Aug 17, 2009 17:32 PM
rating: 2
 
sanott

i usually agree with your articles, but this one seems a little over the top.

i don't disagree with anything that zimmerman said. he went through the draft as it stands and made out OK, and likely doesn't see what the problem is. are we going to hold it against him that he happened to be drafted near his home/college and signed for slot? because he has stagnated he can't want talent on his team. he has at least still proved something in the majors.

i wonder if this statement would've been fodder for this article if albert pujols, 37th odd round pick, had made the same comment.

if the system is so broken, boras should talk to his MLB players and get them to change it. otherwise it is what it is.

Aug 17, 2009 17:58 PM
rating: 3
 
kennygreer1993

Hello everyone first post here, so here I go.

First question what was the reason they pushed the deadline to August 15? That seems a bit early for me, maybe it should be something like January 31 because of college seasons starting.

We need to remember here that all parties involved are men. If Lerner & Kasten are willing to spend $50 Million on Strasberg they should be able to do so. I'm sure if he busts with an injury the Nationals will have insurance on his contract, if they don't their fools. If Strasberg wants to hold out and go play for the Newark Bears next year that is his choice. Let them live with the consequences good or bad. I would personally sign $15 Million is a lot of money.

As far as the draft goes personally I would love to see it done away with entirely. I am a fan of a big market team(Mets) but that is no guarantee that all the top Amateurs in the world will go to one team or that players won't fall through the cracks. If the owners don't want to spend then don't run a Sports franchise.

As far as Free Agency goes no arbitration whatever you sign as a contract is what you start with.


Aug 17, 2009 18:18 PM
rating: -1
 
Jeff Evans

It works both ways. Joe's argument is correct, but the teams involved are taking a major risk at the same time if they're paying out large signing bonuses to unproven (at least at the top level)players. Both sides have to take into context a potential injury in this situation. One side will need to worry about performance in their initial investment. If the player in question becomes a bust or disappointment - a team like the Yankees can brush it off fairly easy where a small-market, low-payroll type would get crushed.

Aug 17, 2009 18:21 PM
rating: -2
 
awayish

well intended article that is lost on the public due to general inability to understand the idea that pay structures are partially the result of power/politics, or more plainly, human action under the purview of concepts such as justice and fairness. yes, strasburg is on the spot, but the general direction of the public discussion, zimmerman's comment being just an example, is that strasburg is "holding out" or holding in hostage a poor franchise. the leverage seems to be in the hands of the individual player, who after all does not own the identity of "The Nationals" under whose aegis fans align themselves. what is out of sight, and indeed out of mind, is the context under which that negotiation take place. the draft didn't descend from G_d or appear as Natural Law out of the olde country, it is the result of power play and history. the context is in other words not a given that is immune to judgment of fairness and justice. it may be the case that strasburg is being selfish, (as if he has an obligation to serve a bunch of people's devotion to a constructed entity remains a marvel of human nature) but perhaps his selfish fight for his fair value (after all, who wouldn't want to work as an indentured servant for a chance to gain the privilege of being dealt with fairly) isn't so damning in the proper historic context?

one of the more interesting things about sports is the persistent illusion of equating ownership and management with The Team, or rather, how easily the ownership and management claim The Team as a part of their rhetoric. since fans care about the team, and the front office etc are "running" the team, fans have a tendency to the team is a show, and both owners and players do play their part in driving it. nevertheless, let's take fans' interest as a given, how to assess conflicts between the two sides that impact The Team? taking this single deal in isolation, the only thing that affects the welfare of the team is the existence of conflict, that is to say, whether strasburg gets 10% of his value or 80% is irrelevant. then, to determine who fans should blame more, we'll have to rely on some notion of fair value, because the damning behavior here is one side being too cheap/too greedy, with the fair value point being the watershed standard. if the player demands more than his fair value, then he is greedy, and vice versa. it is ok if you subscribe to another school of labor ethics, like say the power-blind free market of lore thingy, but at the very least the idea of a fair field of negotiation should still be relevant. assessing the fairness of this structural set-up is the central problem of any responsible assessment of the strasburg situation, and this is sheehan's main point even if not explicitly outlined. it is however flying high above the head of many people too happy with the fairly headless sensationalisation of sporting salaries in the main stream media. the idea of the star athlete, incidentally, is another thing that must both be loathed and worshiped, by the same society.

keep up the great work.

Aug 17, 2009 18:35 PM
rating: -3
 
JParks

Don't go too crazy, oneofthem, it's just Joe stirring the pot as usual. He could have written the same article a hundred times over for every draft negotiation. It's a world of choices - the owner decides if he wants to pay the salary, the player decides if he wants to take it. Pretty simple, really.

Aug 18, 2009 05:41 AM
rating: 0
 
sandriola

Isn't Joe just saying that no one should judge Strausburg for doing whatever he ends up doing in his pursuit of wanting to get as much money as he can? If he wants to pass on the Nationals' offer, that's his choice. History will tell us whether or not he makes the right choice tonight.

"At some point, do it like everybody else has already done it." I have a problem with this line from Zimmerman. Just because other players have done it like everyone else should have no bearing on what Strausburg does.

Do I think he's playing with fire, both professionally and popularly? Yes, big time. If he doesn't sign, look out for the war of words between Boras and the Nationals as to who was at fault. Neither party will come out well. Of course, if the Nats sign him for some ungodly amount, the same could happen in the court of public opinion. This is shaping up to be a no-win situation.

Aug 17, 2009 19:49 PM
rating: 0
 
soBC

"In 2004, Prior’s salary was $2.1 million, and while we didn’t know it then, his career was over. Even though Prior had been one of the very best pitchers in baseball in his first two seasons in the majors, he didn’t get paid like it, because the rules aren’t set up that way."

The rules are also setup so that players get paid like stars if they're one of the very *worst* players in baseball. Baseball players get guaranteed contracts, unlike other sports like the NFL. Players who can hit the market are almost always overpaid the minute they sign, from the first day of their contract to the last.

If we want a process in place that pays players for what they're worth, then ok. But the players can't (shouldn't) have it both ways. If we want to talk about young players being "abused" by the system because they're underpaid compared to their current value, then we have to do something about players who abuse the system by getting paid a price that doesn't match their production.

The system that "deprives amateur players of any leverage" is the same one who's giving all the guaranteed money to their professional brethren. I'm all for changing a system that gets rid of guaranteed contracts so that the players who produce will reap the financial benefits.

Aug 17, 2009 20:12 PM
rating: 3
 
kennygreer1993

An ideal system would be no draft and no arbitration or free agency years. When you sign a contract as an amateur that is where your contract starts and from there your performance dicates whether you get a deal or not. Want to get real idealistic how about baseball set up like Europe with relegation. Never happen but it would be interesting to see all the best players in one 8-10 team league.

Aug 17, 2009 21:01 PM
rating: 0
 
pmolo1230

In the end, Zimmerman's logic prevailed. A pitcher who misses a year of development is crazy and Strasburg is no dummy like Aaron Crow, Harrington, et al. Even a hitter is likely a fool as well given the time value of money, chance of injury (small but not non-zero), and leverage just goes down over time. The big one though is delaying one's arb clock and free-agency in this day and age where 28 is much more likely to be at peak than say 30. The draft might have its inherent problems but Zimmerman really just stated the current reality and he also has a vested interest in getting Strasburg to come, which he is. And to say a high draft pick "will never get paid" in this current climate rubs me the wrong way. Where else can a guy not have a college degree and be $5-10 million richer overnight? The system is flawed but that's a different topic.

Aug 18, 2009 08:02 AM
rating: 3
 
daiheide

Zimmerman signed his contract without having improved since the day he set foot in the league?

It's hyperbole like this - and a general unwillingness to make well-researched value judgments of players - that keeps Sheehan from being the best commentator on the baseball player market around.

By FanGraphs' measurement, Zimmerman was worth about 4 wins in 2006, his first full season in the league. He was 22. The next season, he was worth about 5 wins. In 2008, he was injured for nearly 40% of the season, but was still worth 2.2 wins. He signed his contract after the 2008 season. Pretty clearly, he had improved.

Sheehan likes the triple-slash line a lot and it's difficult to see this improvement if one cares primarily about batting average and OPS. But Zimmerman turned himself into an elite defender. That's primarily responsible for the increased win value. Let's not ignore it.

Aug 18, 2009 08:25 AM
rating: 4
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

Zimmerman was an elite defender--a good shortstop playing third base--the day he walked into the league. He didn't develop as a hitter over three years. My statement stands, and some variance in his UZR doesn't change that.

Aug 18, 2009 09:36 AM
 
AirSteve01

"Stephen Strasburg could win Rookie of the Year and finish third in the NL Cy Young Award voting in 2010, and make $400,000 in 2011. He could be even better in '11, racking up a ton of innings as the Nationals make a wild-card push, and make $400,000 in 2012"

Tim Lemke of the Washington Times is reporting the following guaranteed salaries:

2010: $2m
2011: $2.5m
2012: $3m

Plus the following schedule of signing bonus payments:

2010: $2.5m
2011: $2.5m

So Stasburg's minimum annual compensation in 2010, 2011, and 2012 will not be, as posited in Mr. Sheehan's article, $400k, $400k, and $400k, but rather:

2010: $4.5m
2011: $5m
2012: $3m

This excludes any additional performance bonuses he might achieve for performance at the level Mr. Sheehan projects.

Aug 19, 2009 16:47 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Joe Sheehan
BP staff
(17)

In five months, compare those figures to the 2010-12 salaries for Jason Marquis, or Jarrod Washburn, or Joel Piniero.

That the deal is a major-league deal structured the way it is doesn't change the main point.

Aug 20, 2009 07:59 AM
 
AirSteve01

Presumably that main point is this: "when one stands up to that system and tries to make the best possible deal for himself, he shouldn’t be excoriated, or labeled as greedy, or derided as "unproven.""

You'll note that I took no exception to your opinion.

I merely corrected a completely erroneous series of statements you misrepresented as facts in support of your opinion.

Aug 23, 2009 14:22 PM
rating: 0
 
Ray Whatley
(267)

A few points I thought of while reading all the comments:

1). The players drafted in the first round of the MLB draft, with very few exceptions, do not play in the majors in the year they are drafted, nor in the 2nd year or even the 3rd. Compare that to players taken in the first round of the NFL draft. Those teams generally get a player who can help you right away. That major difference has got to enter the minds and actions of MLB negotiators and why they balk at millions of $$ in baseball draftees demands.

2). You talk about weak teams being potentially thwarted by not being able to pay for top talent in the first round. Well what's revenue sharing money for? This is exactly the kind of thing revenue sharing was intended to do.

3). $15 or $20 million is small potatoes compared to $40 million paid to a thief like the American Idle--Carl Pavano.

Aug 20, 2009 01:06 AM
rating: 0
 
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