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Jeff Samardzija: ‘We’re going to have to get arbitration moved up a year earlier and get guys to free agency earlier’

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A handful of veteran players have spoken up this offseason, both directly and indirectly, about the state of free agency in recent years. We’ve heard from Peter Moylan (link), Collin McHugh (link), Justin Verlander (link), Dallas Keuchel (link), Jake Arrieta (link), Evan Longoria (link), and Buster Posey (link). You can add Giants starter Jeff Samardzija to the list.

Alex Pavlovic of NBC Sports Bay Area spoke with Samardzija at Oracle Park on Friday morning about the state of free agency. Samardzija said, “We’re going to have to get arbitration moved up a year earlier and get guys to free agency earlier. It seems like there might only be one way to get that, but we’ll see. Hopefully it doesn’t come to that because we want to keep the fans happy. We want people coming to the stadium and watching a great product, but they need the best product available, and having 50 guys sitting at home that are big league players is not the best product.”

Samardzija continued, “You know, striking is the last thing you want to do, but you have to be willing to do it. But I think there are other things before then that can get the ball going the right way.”

The crux of the issue is that baseball players are severely underpaid for the first three years of their careers, then underpaid for the most part over the next three years before reaching free agency. Because all 30 teams are involved to some degree with analytics, they know that a player’s best years are typically behind him, or they may only have one or two more predictably good seasons by the time he reaches free agency (with a few exceptions) . As a result, players who thought they would finally be making money commensurate with the value they have provided are no longer finding those contracts. Hence why spring training has just begun and the likes of Keuchel, Craig Kimbrel, Adam Jones, and Marwin Gonzalez have not yet been signed.

Allowing players to reach arbitration eligibility a year sooner — and, ostensibly, free agency a year sooner — is a step in the right direction. It would not be a panacea. The competitive balance tax gives owners an excuse to implement roster austerity. The incentives for a team to fully commit to rebuilding (e.g. better draft picks) outweigh the drawbacks. The spoiling of free agency has caused young players to sign long-term contract extensions just for the financial security.

MLB has been setting revenue records year over year, including $10.3 billion in revenues in 2018. However, as Maury Brown of Forbes reports, players saw their second-lowest cut as a percentage of revenues since 2006. Per Brown’s numbers, the ’06-11 period ranged from 56 to 57.4 percent, then dipped to 53.8 percent in 2012. It ranged from 55.4 to 57.7 percent from 2013-17 before dropping to 54.8 percent last year. When we are talking about billions of dollars, a percentage point or two makes a huge difference.

Samardzija is right that players have to wield the threat of a strike to swing the balance of power back towards the middle or in their favor. The players’ leverage in collective bargaining is only as strong as their willingness to withhold their labor.

Marlins clinch 1st playoff berth since 2003, beat Yanks 4-3

Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports
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NEW YORK — Forced from the field by COVID-19, the Miami Marlins returned with enough force to reach the playoffs for the first time since their 2003 championship.

An NL-worst 57-105 a year ago, they sealed the improbable berth on the field of the team that Miami CEO Derek Jeter and manager Don Mattingly once captained.

“I think this is a good lesson for everyone. It really goes back to the players believing,” Mattingly said Friday night after a 4-3, 10-inning win over the New York Yankees.

Miami will start the playoffs on the road Wednesday, its first postseason game since winning the 2003 World Series as the Florida Marlins, capped by a Game 6 victory in the Bronx over Jeter and his New York teammates at the previous version of Yankee Stadium.

“We play loose. We got nothing to lose. We’re playing with house money.,” said Brandon Kintzler, who got DJ LeMahieu to ground into a game-ending double play with the bases loaded after Jesus Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly in the top of the 10th. “We are a dangerous team. And we really don’t care if anyone says we’re overachievers.”

Miami (30-28), second behind Atlanta in the NL East, became the first team to make the playoffs in the year following a 100-loss season. The Marlins achieved the feat despite being beset by a virus outbreak early this season that prevented them from playing for more than a week.

After the final out, Marlins players ran onto the field, formed a line and exchanged non socially-distant hugs, then posed for photos across the mound.

“I can’t contain the tears, because it’s a lot of grind, a lot of passion,” shortstop Miguel Rojas said. “It wasn’t just the virus. Last year we lost 100 games. But we came out this year with the hope everything was going to be better. When we had the outbreak, the guys who got an opportunity to help the organization, thank you for everything you did.”

Miami was one of baseball’s great doubts at the start of the most shortened season since 1878, forced off the field when 18 players tested positive for COVID-19 following the opening series in Philadelphia.

“Yeah, we’ve been through a lot. Other teams have been through a lot, too,” Mattingly said “This just not a been a great situation. It’s just good to be able to put the game back on the map.”

New York (32-26) had already wrapped up a playoff spot but has lost five of six following a 10-game winning streak and is assured of starting the playoffs on the road. Toronto clinched a berth by beating the Yankees on Thursday.

“I don’t like any time somebody celebrates on our field or if we’re at somebody else’s place and they celebrate on their field,” Yankees star Aaron Judge said. “I’m seeing that too much.”

Mattingly captained the Yankees from 1991-95 and is in his fifth season managing the Marlins, Jeter captained the Yankees from 2003-14 as part of a career that included five World Series titles in 20 seasons and is part of the group headed by Bruce Sherman that bought the Marlins in October 2017.

Garrett Cooper, traded to the Marlins by the Yankees after the 2017 season, hit a three-run homer in the first inning off J.A. Happ.

After the Yankees tied it on Aaron Hicks‘ two-run double off Sandy Alcantara in the third and Judge’s RBI single off Yimi Garcia in the eighth following an error by the pitcher on a pickoff throw, the Marlins regained the lead with an unearned run in the 10th against Chad Green (3-3).

Jon Berti sacrificed pinch-runner Monte Harrison to third and, with the infield in, Starling Marte grounded to shortstop. Gleyber Torres ran at Harrison and threw to the plate, and catcher Kyle Higashioka‘s throw to third hit Harrison in the back, giving the Yankees a four-error night for the second time in three games.

With runners at second and third, Aguilar hit a sacrifice fly.

Brad Boxberger (1-0) walked his leadoff batter in the ninth but got Luke Voit to ground into a double play, and Kintzler held on for his 12th save in 14 chances.

Miami ended the second-longest postseason drought in the majors – the Seattle Mariners have been absent since 2001.

Miami returned Aug. 4 following an eight-day layoff with reinforcements from its alternate training site, the trade market and the waiver wire to replace the 18 players on the injured list and won its first five games.

“We’re just starting,” said Alcantara, who handed a 3-2 lead to his bullpen in the eighth. “We’ve got to keep doing what we’re doing.”

TOSSED

Yankees manager Aaron Boone was ejected for arguing from the dugout in the first inning. Plate umpire John Tumpane called out Judge on a full-count slider that appeared to drop well below the knees and Boone argued during the next pitch, to Hicks, then was ejected. Television microphones caught several of Boone’s profane shouts.

“Reacting to a terrible call and then following it up,” Boone said. “Obviously, we see Aaron get called a lot on some bad ones down.”

ODD

Pinch-runner Michael Tauchman stole second base in the eighth following a leadoff single by Gary Sanchez but was sent back to first because Tumpane interfered with the throw by catcher Chad Wallach. Clint Frazier struck out on the next pitch and snapped his bat over a leg.

SLOPPY

New York took the major league lead with 47 errors. Sanchez was called for catcher’s interference for the third time in five days and fourth time this month.

REMEMBERING

Mattingly thought of Jose Fernandez, the former Marlins All-Star pitcher who died four years earlier to the night at age 24 while piloting a boat that crashed. An investigation found he was legally drunk and had cocaine in his system. The night also marked the sixth anniversary of Jeter’s final game at Yankee Stadium.

UP NEXT

RHP Deivi Garcia (2-2, 4.88) starts Saturday for the Yankees and LHP Trevor Rogers (1-2, 6.84) for the Marlins. Garcia will be making the sixth start of his rookie season.