Dexter Fowler: “[The Orioles] wanted me to pay them” for forfeited draft pick


Last month’s Dexter Fowler saga was rather interesting. It was reported that he had agreed to a three-year deal worth “about $35 million”. The deal never came to fruition and Fowler instead surprised the baseball world by agreeing to a one-year, $13 million contract with the Cubs.

Fowler’s agent, Casey Close, issued a statement in which he was very critical of the baseball media and the Orioles’ front office. Fowler later criticized the qualifying offer system, which was partially why he remained unsigned into February. Then MLBPA executive director Tony Clark also expressed his displeasure with how the media handled the situation.

But wait, there’s more. Peter Gammons recently spoke to Fowler about how negotiations with the Orioles broke down.

“We never really were close,” says Fowler. “They wanted me to pay them what they said the draft choice I was costing them was valued at. They wanted me to pay them for the pick. So we said, OK, then give me an opt-out after one year, and they said that’s something they won’t do.”

That pretty much confirms the complaints made by critics of the qualifying offer system, which could be altered when the next Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated this coming winter.

For readers who aren’t familiar with how the system works, when a player is to hit free agency after a season, his team — assuming he has been with that team for the duration of the prior season — can make a qualifying offer, which is the average of the top 125 salaries. In the case of the 2016 qualifying offer, it was $15.8 million. The potential free agent player can accept that offer, in which case he re-ups with that team for one more year at $15.8 million. Or he can decline the offer to become a free agent with draft pick compensation attached. Teams that finish with one of the 10 worst records in baseball have protected first round picks, so they would give up their second-highest pick. The Orioles did not have a protected pick, so — for example — they gave up their 14th overall pick in the first round in order to sign pitcher Yovani Gallardo. Gallardo’s former team, the Rangers, does not get that pick; rather, they got the 30th overall pick. Essentially, the Orioles’ pick just vanished and everyone else moved up a spot.

Furthermore, that this is a negotiating tactic for teams against players illustrates just how poorly set up the system is against players. Players are often portrayed as greedy, but the Orioles were valued at $1 billion, according to Forbes last year. The 27th pick in the first round is worth around $8 million, per research done by Matthew Murphy at The Hardball Times back in 2014. It’s unknown how close that figure is to the Orioles’ internal calculations, but it’s a good reference point at the very least. The QO system essentially took $8 million out of Fowler’s pocket. More, really, if you subtract the $13 million from the Cubs from the supposed $35 million he had negotiated with the Orioles.

While team owners want to haggle over every penny paid to the players, the sport overall is much better off when the players are well paid and receiving a fair percentage of revenues. As Nathaniel Grow of FanGraphs illustrated last year, the players have been receiving an ever-decreasing percentage of revenues. It stood at 56 percent in 2002, but fell to 38 percent last season.

The Fowler issue is simply a symptom of a much larger problem, one that will hopefully be addressed after the season.

New bill to build Athletics stadium on Las Vegas Strip caps Nevada’s cost at $380 million

D. Ross Cameron-USA TODAY Sports

CARSON CITY, Nev. — A bill introduced in the Nevada Legislature would give the Oakland Athletics up to $380 million for a potential 30,000 seat, $1.5 billion retractable roof stadium on the Las Vegas Strip.

The bulk of the public funding would come from $180 million in transferable tax credits from the state and $120 million in county bonds, which can vary based on interest rate returns. Clark County also would contribute $25 million in credit toward infrastructure costs.

The A’s have been looking for a home to replace Oakland Coliseum, where the team has played since arriving from Kansas City for the 1968 season. The team had sought to build a stadium in Fremont, San Jose and finally the Oakland waterfront, all ideas that never materialized.

The plan in the Nevada Legislature won’t directly raise taxes. It can move forward with a simply majority vote in the Senate and Assembly. Lawmakers have a little more than a week to consider the proposal before they adjourn June 5, though it could be voted on if a special session is called.

The Athletics have agreed to use land on the southern end of the Las Vegas Strip, where the Tropicana Las Vegas casino resort sits. Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao has said he is disappointed the team didn’t negotiate with Oakland as a “true partner.”

Las Vegas would be the fourth home for a franchise that started as the Philadelphia Athletics from 1901-54. It would become the smallest TV market in Major League Baseball and the smallest market to be home to three major professional sports franchises.

The team and Las Vegas are hoping to draw from the nearly 40 million tourists who visit the city annually to help fill the stadium. The 30,000-seat capacity would make it the smallest MLB stadium.

MLB Commissioner Rob Manfred said a vote on the Oakland Athletics’ prospective move to Las Vegas could take place when owners meet June 13-15 in New York.

The plan faces an uncertain path in the Nevada Legislature. Democratic leaders said financing bills, including for the A’s, may not go through if Republican Gov. Joe Lombardo vetoes the five budget bills, which he has threatened to do as many of his priorities have stalled or faded in the Democratic-controlled Legislature.

Under the bill, the Clark County Board of Commissioners would create a homelessness prevention and assistance fund along the stadium’s area in coordination with MLB and the Nevada Resort Association. There, they would manage funds for services, including emergency rental and utility assistance, job training, rehabilitation and counseling services for people experiencing or at risk of homelessness.

The lease agreement with the Las Vegas Stadium Authority would be up for renewal after 30 years.

Nevada’s legislative leadership is reviewing the proposal, Democratic state Assembly Speaker Steve Yeager said in a statement.

“No commitment will be made until we have both evaluated the official proposal and received input from interested parties, including impacted community members,” Yeager said.