Tampa Bay Sports Day

A Cap For Newly Signed Amateurs To Try On

The amateur draft signing deadline was Monday night and top pick Stephen Strasberg signed with the Nationals for over $15 million.  Good for Stephen.

But…

I don’t like it.  I am in total, unequivocal favor of a salary cap for draftees.  Isn’t that ironic?  The players have been fighting against a salary cap for years, like in 1994 when the strike took away the World Series (sorry Expos fans), and now I’m saying put a cap on the amateurs.  Ironic, but sensible.  Here’s why.  If I’m on a Major League roster, it took me years to get there.  Chances are good I was signed out of high school or college and then spent between 2 and 5 years in the minor leagues, paying my dues and learning the game at a level I never came close to before I signed.  Then I finally got my call up and heard the whining from management (which you may or may not have heard in the media, depending upon who’s doing the whining) about lack of funds.  In other words, I want them to spend their money on me in the off season.  I don’t want that money to be gone because they spent it all in the draft, going above their budgetary expectations.

Accountants out there are saying, “Jimmy, that’s just it.  Teams have different budgets.  They have their draft budget and they have their player payroll budget and they have their budgets for other operations, etc.  You’re not affected by their signings.”

To which I respond, somewhat thoughtfully, balderdash.  The revenue comes in and streams to each budget.  If they realize they keep going over budget to sign amateurs, then they’re going to allocate more money to the draft and less somewhere else, like, to the guys on the 40-man roster.

That’s where it affects me directly.

The NBA has a rookie salary cap.  That’s a different league, where college is like their minor leagues.  We don’t need a rookie salary cap in baseball.  An overall amateur salary cap is sufficient.

What would be important is the loopholes.  There are probably many of them in this plan.  Think like Scott Boras dealing with this cap.  “Okay, I’m suddenly constricted to what I can get for my guy as an amateur.  Do I have every one of my guys hold out, play one professional game with an independent team, and now, since they’re technically professionals, have I gone around the cap?”  But, Scott, since they now can’t go back to school (most guys are drafted after high school, when they can use going to college as leverage, or after their junior years of college, when they can use going back for their senior year as leverage), have you lost your leverage?  To which Scott says, “Not with Stephen Strasberg.  Not with David Price.  The top guys are going to get top bucks, and I’ll have all the leverage in the world because these guys are the best young talent in the country.  They can change the fortunes of an organization overnight.  Wait and see.”  My guess is most teams have to wait a little longer than overnight.

The point is, MLB players who have done their time in the minors and now live year-to-year in the bigs, or are fortunate enough to earn multi-year contracts, want the pool of funds for them to be as rich as possible.  If that pool is limited because of allocations toward young kids who haven’t put in the sweat and time and effort that you have, you’re not going to want to share it with them.  You’ve made it to the big leagues.  You know there are plenty of “bonus babies” throughout MLB history who never got out of A-ball.  Why should a team gamble “your” potential money on an unsure thing, when you’re right there under their noses, playing your heart out; when you’ve been a member of the union for a few years, literally paying them dues?

If you drive home one day and see a house two doors down for sale, you want that house to get as much as possible so that it raises the value of your home.  In this regard, players like other players similar to them to get paid lots of money, because it can make it easier for them to get paid lots of money.  The players’ market values are worth relatively the same.  But from a Major League player perspective, they’d rather that “relative” money go directly to the guys on the roster who are playing, not the ones who still pop pimples before going out on a Saturday night date.

I should add that this cap will never happen.  Why?  The owners will taste blood.  The seal has been broken on Pandora’s Box.  If the players agreed to this cap, maybe they’ll agree to a cap on rookies too.  And then a cap on pension payouts.  And then a cap on healthcare benefits.  And then a cap on…  See where it’s going?  Marvin Miller and Donald Fehr didn’t spend the last 30+ years fighting caps to suddenly instill one.  The future risks are too uncertain.

But from a simplistic, young MLB player point of view, if I were a pre-salary arbitration player on the Nationals today, I’m publicly saying congratulations to Stephen Strasberg.  And then I’m wondering where the money is going to come from to pay me next year.  That answer lies somewhere in the next six months.

Jimmy Scott is probably the greatest pitcher you’ve never heard of.  Visit Jimmy Scott’s High & Tight to read more from Jimmy and guests Desi Relaford, Eric Valent & Cassidy Dover.  You’ll also hear a new interview every Monday morning with former MLB players, agents, wives and others; giving new outlooks on this great game we call Baseball.  Go there now to hear Jimmy’s latest interviews with Rollie Fingers, Desi Relaford, Brent Mayne and MLB Umpire Hunter Wendelstedt.  You can follow Jimmy on Twitter or Facebook.