The Cleveland Indians think they have found a loophole in the CBA which will allow them to reserve Danys Baez while still cutting his salary by more than the maximum percentage allowed by the CBA.
In November 1999, the Indians signed Baez, a Cuban defector, to a four-year, $14.5 million contract covering the 2000-03 seasons, with an option for 2004. International players like Baez are anomalies in MLB’s salary structure, earning free agent money from their first day of major league service Through the 2003 season Baez has only two years and 102 days of major league service time, not even enough to qualify him for salary arbitration, yet he was paid $5,125,000 in 2003.
On November 15, the Cleveland Plain Dealer reported that the Indians were buying out Baez’ 2004 option for $500,000. This left Baez in the same position as any other unsigned player with his seniority–except for his salary. Because the CBA forbids clubs from cutting the salary of a player under reserve by more than 20%, the Indians appeared to have the choice of offering Baez a 2004 contract for at least $4.1 million or non-tendering him.
For the first time in a while, I didn’t think there were any major mistakes in the BBWAA awards. Or more accurately, I didn’t find any outcome that I couldn’t understand.
That’s not to say that everything was perfect. The one award that clearly went to the wrong person was the NL Rookie of the Year honor. Dontrelle Willis had the story, though, and combined with his clear advantage over Brandon Webb in the W-L column, there wasn’t much doubt that Willis was going to win. It was the wrong choice, but one that had been a fait accompli for some time.
American League voters got their rookie honors right, although perhaps for the wrong reasons. Angel Berroa came from behind to grab the award, something that rarely happens with this particular balloting. Berroa was helped by the refusal of two voters to put Hideki Matsui on the ballot, despite Matsui being eligible by the rules of the voting and pretty clearly one of the top three rookies in the AL this year. The two writers, Bill Ballou and Pat Souhan, both cited Matsui’s experience in Japan as a factor in their decision, and both are wrong for doing so. Matsui was a rookie, and acceptance of a ballot in this process should mean acceptance of the eligibility rules, not an opportunity to make a statement against them.