Query: which free agents are we rightfully overpaying? While you ponder that, here’s Nolan Ryan’s reaction to the Cliff Lee deal:
Well, you know, every year you think you’ve seen this thing take on a life of its own and you think it’s got to top out here pretty quick, and it just keeps escalating. Obviously, the premier free agents…they’re just so few of them, they just keep going up and so what you have is a high-ish amount of people getting an unbelievable amount of money and it impacts everything else and so we’re overpaying some free agents that probably shouldn’t be getting paid what they are.
That answer, combined with some others in the interview imply that Ryan is not at all displeased that the Rangers missed out on Lee. He’d prefer to go 3-4 years with free agents. It seemed at the time that the push for Lee in Texas came from Chuck Greenberg, not Ryan and Jon Daniels. This seems to bolster that notion.
By the way, the question that elicited that quote also asked Ryan what he thought he’d command if he had been a free agent pitcher in today’s market. Ryan dodged it, but Walt Davis, a commenter over at Baseball Think Factory attacked this question over in this comment thread (comment #10), and he knocked it out of the park.
The upshot: you figure that, under today’s setup, Ryan would have first hit free agency following th 1973 season. At that point, coming off his first two 300-strikeout seasons, he would have commanded a six or seven year deal in the $20 million+ range. Based on what he did in 1974-80, however, most teams probably would have considered that an overpay. His walk rate was pretty bad, even by his standards. He had three sub-100 ERA+ seasons and a couple more average ones.
It would only be later in the 80s — and here is where Davis’ analysis really shines — that Ryan would have earned his keep. And depending on how ownership set up his age-40+ contracts (e.g. year-to-year? Roger Clemens-type incentive-laden deals?) he could have made out like a bandit.
On Monday we passed along a report that Major League Baseball and the MLBPA are negotiating over an international draft. That report — from ESPN’s Buster Olney — cited competitive balance and the well-being of international free agents as the reasons why they’re pushing for the draft.
We have long doubted those stated motivations and said so again in our post on Monday. But we’re just armchair skeptics when it comes to this. Ben Badler of Baseball America is an expert. Perhaps the foremost expert on international baseball, international signings and the like. Today he writes about a would-be international draft and he tears MLB, the MLBPA and their surrogates in the media to shreds with respect to their talking points.
Of course Badler is a nice guy so “tearing to shreds” is probably putting it too harshly. Maybe it’s better to say that he systematically dismantles the stated rationale for the international draft and makes plan what’s really going on: MLB is looking to save money and the players are looking to sell out non-union members to further their own bargaining position:
Major League Baseball has long wanted an international draft. The driving force behind implementing an international draft is for owners to control their labor costs by paying less money to international amateur players, allowing owners to keep more of that money . . . the players’ association doesn’t care about international amateur players as anything more than a bargaining chip. It’s nothing discriminatory against foreign players, it’s just that the union looks out for players on 40-man rosters. So international players, draft picks in the United States and minor leaguers who make less than $10,000 in annual salary get their rights sold out by the union, which in exchange can negotiate items like a higher major league minimum salary, adjustments to the Super 2 rules or modifying draft pick compensation attached to free agent signings.
Badler then walks through the process of how players are discovered, scouted and signed in Latin America and explains, quite convincingly, how MLB’s international draft and, indeed, its fundamental approach to amateurs in Latin America is lacking.
Read this. Then, every time a U.S.-based writer with MLB sources talks about the international draft, ask whether they know something Ben Badler doesn’t or, alternatively, whether they’re carrying water for either the league or the union.
I don’t know why Bill Murray is in Washington today. I don’t know why he’s at the White House. But I do know that he was there in Chicago Cubs gear, standing at the lectern in the press briefing room, voicing his full confidence in the Cubs prevailing in the NLCS, despite the fact that Clayton Kershaw is going for the Dodgers tomorrow night.
“Too many sticks,” president Murray said of the Cubs lineup. And something about better trees in Illinois.
Four. More. Years.