Why are we suddenly hearing about the Boras-Salcedo loan story?

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Scott Boras, who was not extensively quoted in yesterday’s New York Times story about the loan he made to Dominican prospect Edward Salcedo, spoke with Yahoo!’s Tim Brown.  Boras’ side of things is that there was nothing at all wrong with the loan he extended.  “This is a goodwill story,” he tells Brown, ““We did something we’re proud of. We have a young man who’s playing baseball who otherwise wouldn’t be.” Salcedo likewise brushed off the notion that Boras’ loan was exploitative, noting that he and his family asked Boras for the loan, it was never offered.

I stand by my views from yesterday: while such loans have the potential to be abused, and while union rules certainly should be followed in these matters — and if Boras didn’t follow them he should be punished — I’m struggling to see the problem in this instance.

And let me add one more thing: I suspect that it’s no accident that we’re seeing a series in the Times about potential exploitation of Dominican players right now. Indeed, I think we’ll see more of them between now and the end of the 2011 season.

Why? Because there is an interest on the part of Major League Baseball and perhaps some others to present the Dominican Republic as a wild west in need of taming. Because if things can be portrayed as sufficiently chaotic and dangerous down there — drugs, loans, buscones, etc. — it will be much easier to sell people on the notion that more regulation is needed. Regulation that will, inevitably, lead to things that will put a lid on signing bonuses and possibly lay the groundwork for that international draft that Selig and the owners desperately want.  The time to lay that groundwork is now, in the run-up to the new collective bargaining agreement being negotiated next year.

To be clear: I’m not saying that there aren’t some ugly aspects in talent development in the Dominican. There are.* But the examples we’re hearing about aren’t exactly new and aren’t exactly egregious. I likewise believe that it’s important to ask why we’re seeing these stories now and to think about whose interest they benefit. Scott Boras has long been a useful villain for those who oppose free agency and I would not be at all shocked if he is again being used in that role with a greater agenda in mind.

*And, it should be noted, the most recent ugly aspect we’ve seen hasn’t involved agents or buscones, but employees of Major League Baseball teams themselves.

Report: Qualifying offer to be in the $18 million range

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According to ESPN’s Buster Olney, teams have been told that the qualifying offer to free agents this offseason will be in the $18 million range, likely $18.1 million. The value is derived by taking the average of the top 125 player salaries.

At $18.1 million, that would be $900,000 more than the previous QO, which was $17.2 million. This will impact soon-to-be free agents like Jake Arrieta, Eric Hosmer, Lorenzo Cain, Mike Moustakas, and Yu Darvish, among others. That also assumes that the aforementioned players aren’t traded, which would make them ineligible to receive qualifying offers. We’ve seen, increasingly, that teams aren’t willing to make a QO to an impending free agent and that trend is likely to continue this offseason.

The QO system was modified by the newest collective bargaining agreement. The compensatory pick for a team losing a player who declined a QO used to be a first-round pick. That was a penalty to both teams and players, which is why it was changed. Via MLB’s website pertaining to the QO:

A team that exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season will lose its second- and fifth-highest selections after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well $1 million from its international bonus pool. If such a team signs multiple qualifying offer free agents, it will forfeit its third- and sixth-highest remaining picks as well.

A team that receives revenue sharing will lose its third-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its fourth-highest remaining pick.

A team that neither exceeded the luxury tax in the preceding season nor receives revenue sharing will lose its second-highest selection after the first round in the following year’s Draft as well as $500,000 from its international bonus pool. If it signs two such players, it will also forfeit its third-highest remaining pick.

Additionally, if a player who rejected a QO signs a guaranteed contract worth at least $50 million and came from a team that receives revenue sharing, that previous team will receive a compensatory pick immediately following the first round in the ensuing draft. If the contract is less than $50 million, that team will get a compensatory pick after Competitive Balance Round B. If the player’s team is over the luxury tax threshold, that team will receive a compensation pick following the fourth round. If that team neither exceeded the luxury tax nor receives revenue sharing, the compensation pick will come after Competitive Balance Round B.

Yeah, it’s a bit convoluted, but you do the best you can with a flawed system.

The Astros’ pursuit of Sonny Gray is “heating up”

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Jon Morosi of MLB Networks reports that talks are “heating up” between the Astros and Athletics on a Sonny Gray trade. Gray, obviously, would represent a big upgrade for the Astros’ rotation. He has a 3.66 ERA and has struck out 85 batters while walking 28 in 91 innings.

Morosi adds that Gray is not the only option for the Astros, as they are also talking to the Tigers about a potential acquisition of Justin Verlander and Justin Wilson. That would obviously be a much tougher deal to negotiate given Verlander’s 10/5 rights giving him veto power over any trade, not to mention the massive amount of money he’s still owed on his contract.

Also: I’m pretty sure that it’s in the MLB rules that any trade between the Tigers and the Astros has to involve Brad Ausmus, C.J. Nitkowski and Jose Lima, and that’s not possible given their current occupations and/or their deaths in 2010.