Aaron Miles opts for retirement

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One of the ultimate underdogs, Aaron Miles put together a nine-year career in the big leagues after debuting at age 26. Now he’s opted to calling it a day, according to his Triple-A team, retiring at age 35.

After receiving 12 at-bats with the White Sox at the end of 2003, Miles was traded to the Rockies for Juan Uribe over the winter. It proved to be his big break. He became the Rockies’ primary second baseman and finished fourth in the NL Rookie of the Year balloting after hitting  .293/.329/.368 with six homers and 47 RBI in 2004.

Miles spent two years with the Rockies and then three with the Cardinals, where his versatility made him a favorite of manager Tony La Russa. He turned in his best season in 2008, hitting .317/.355/.398 in 379 at-bats. All of those rate stats were career highs.

Unfortunately, that big year with the Cards made him too expensive to keep. The Cubs went on to sign him to a two-year, $4.9 million deal that proved to be a complete waste of money. He hit .185 in 157 at-bats in 2009 and was then sent packing, eventually to return to St. Louis.

Miles’ last hurrah came last year. An underdog to make the Dodgers out of spring training, he ended up getting 454 at-bats and hitting a respectable .275/.314/.346 with 45 RBI. Nevertheless, he wasn’t offered any big-league deals over the winter. He went on to re-sign with the Dodgers in May to play in Triple-A. His retirement comes after he hit .235 in 18 games for Albuquerque.

Standing just 5-foot-8 and listed at 160 pounds, Miles never really looked the part of a major leaguer. He wasn’t even really taken seriously as a utilityman initially because it didn’t look like he had the arm to play shortstop or third base. Miles, though, ended up playing in 932 games. He even started at shortstop 97 times. He also was the preeminent mop-up man among position players over the last decade. Five times he pitched for the Cardinals, allowing two runs in five innings.

All in all, it was quite a career for a little guy without any real power (19 career homers) or speed (30 stolen bases). He made about $9 million in his nine years, and he probably has a future in coaching if he wants one.

MLB Network airs segment listing “good” and “bad” $100 million-plus contracts

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On Wednesday evening, Charlie Marlow of KTVI FOX 2 News St. Louis posted a couple of screencaps from a segment MLB Network aired about $100 million-plus contracts that have been signed. The list of “bad” contracts, unsurprisingly, is lengthier than the list of “good” contracts.

As Mike Gianella of Baseball Prospectus pointed out, it is problematic for a network owned by Major League Baseball to air a segment criticizing its employees for making too much seemingly unearned money. There’s a very clear conflict of interest, so one is certainly not getting a fair view of the situation. MLB, of course, can do what it wants with its network, but it can also be criticized. MLB Network would never air a similar segment in which it listed baseball’s “good” and “bad” owners and how much money they’ve undeservedly taken. Nor would MLB Network ever run a segment naming the hundreds of players who are not yet eligible for arbitration whose salaries are decided for them by their teams, often making the major league minimum ($545,000) or just above it. Similarly, MLB Network would also never think of airing a segment in which the pay of minor league players, many of whom make under $10,000 annually, is highlighted.

We’re now past the halfway point in January and many free agents still remain unsigned. It’s unprecedented. A few weeks ago, I looked just at the last handful of years and found that, typically, six or seven of the top 10 free agents signed by the new year. We’re still at two of 10 — same as a few weeks ago — and that’s only if you consider Carlos Santana a top-10 free agent, which is debatable. It’s a complex issue, but part of it certainly is the ubiquity of analytics in front offices, creating homogeneity in thinking. A consequence of that is everyone now being aware that big free agent contracts haven’t panned out well; it’s a topic of conversation that everyone can have and understand now. Back in 2010, I upset a lot of people by suggesting that Ryan Howard’s five-year, $125 million contract with the Phillies wouldn’t pan out well. Those people mostly cited home runs and RBI and got mad when I cited WAR and wOBA and defensive metrics. Now, many of those same people are wary of signing free agent first baseman Eric Hosmer and they now cite WAR, wOBA, and the various defensive metrics.

The public’s hyper-sensitivity to the viability of long-term free agent contracts — thanks in part to segments like the aforementioned — is a really bad trend if you’re a player, agent, or just care about labor in general. The tables have become very much tilted in favor of ownership over labor over the last decade and a half. Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs pointed out in March 2015 that the players’ share of total league revenues peaked in 2002 at 56 percent, but declined all the way to 38 percent in 2014. The current trend of teams signing their talented players to long-term contract extensions before or during their years of arbitration eligibility — before they have real leverage — as well as teams abstaining from signing free agents will only serve to send that percentage further down.

Craig has written at great length about the rather serious problem the MLBPA has on its hands. Solving this problem won’t be easy and may require the threat of a strike, or actually striking. As Craig mentioned, that would mean getting the players all on the same page on this issue, which would require some work. MLB hasn’t dealt with a strike since 1994 and it’s believed that it caused a serious decline in interest among fans, so it’s certainly something that would get the owners’ attention. The MLBPA may also need to consider replacing union head Tony Clark with someone with a serious labor background. Among the issues the union could focus on during negotiations for the next collective bargaining agreement: abolishing the draft and getting rid of the arbitration system. One thing is for sure: the players are not in a good spot now, especially when the league has its own network on which it propagandizes against them.