How qualifying offers sabotaged free agency

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Buster Olney has a good post up today about how qualifying offers to free agents — which were designed to compensate teams who lose free agents — are far more effective at harming the market of certain free agents by scaring away teams from signing them. Because not only do they lose a draft pick if they do, they lose money from the amateur signing salary caps too.

The fun part: Scott Boras clients Rafael Soriano, Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn are being hurt the most by this and, wouldn’t you know it, Boras is exploring a loophole to the draft pick quandary:

Let’s say Seattle was interested in signing Bourn, but without giving up a top draft pick. With Boras working in concert with the Mariners and Indians, Cleveland could be the team that technically signs Bourn — with a prearranged trade to Seattle, who would give the Indians something in return.

In this way, Seattle would get Bourn while keeping the top of its draft intact, and Cleveland would get something in return for giving up its lower draft pick.

Maybe this works, maybe it doesn’t, but it’s hard to shed tears for the free agents. The union gladly threw the amateurs and international signees under the bus by agreeing to a severe spending cap in the draft and in the international free agent market. By limiting how much teams can spend there, they inspired teams to do everything in their power to protect what little they can in that arena. Including, we are seeing, avoiding spending on players who are attached by qualifying offers.

In other news: teams that don’t put qualifying offers on players are pretty silly.

Minor League Baseball had its worst attendance in 14 years

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Baseball American reports today that total attendance at minor league baseball games reached a 14-year low in 2018. Total attendance was 40,450,337. That’s a drop of 1,382,027 fans compared to last season.

Around a third of that drop is attributable to fewer scheduled games but, as Baseball America notes, even when you go to average attendance per game, there was a sharp drop off this season. BA suggests that this represents a leveling off after over a decade’s worth of large increases in minor league attendance. Which sound pretty plausible. Overall, attendance numbers are still massively above where they were 15-20 years ago, so this seems more like a correction than a real problem. The BA article goes into some good analysis of the decline.

All of that said, revenues are up for the minors, in large part because of merchandise sales and because minor league ballparks have a lot more amenities and better concessions than they used to have and fans are willing to pay for them.