Some speculation was raised over part I of an article I wrote whether or not a salary cap or salary floor could really work in a revised Major League Baseball system similar to the NFL because of guaranteed contracts in MLB.
I say it could. The National Hockey League has similar guaranteed contracts and they recently implemented a salary cap and floor like the one I presented in the above article after the NHL lockout of 2004-2005. Under this system players can still be released and teams are still on the hook for 2/3 of their contracts. That isn't quite the same as the NFL, but from a players standpoint its better, and considering what we currently have in MLB with 100% of the contracts guaranteed its better than that.
We've currently seen players being released with time on their contracts. The most notable being Adam Eaton, Damian Easley and Bobby Higginson. While with Detroit and Jay Gibbons with Baltimore so releasing a player mid-contract is not the problem, its the amount they have to pay him that prevents this necessary move from being done more often, when and if needed.
This wouldn't handcuff teams like the Atlanta Braves and Colorado Rockies from playing players such as Denny Neagle and Mike Hampton their full deals long after they flopped which directly impacted their time table and overall ability to compete since they had so much dead money invested in these players.
Imagine what a flop like this would do for small market teams like the Pirates, Athletics, Twins, and Rays should they make a financial mistake that cannot be as easily absorbed as in a New York situation. It could have dire long term effects both in the fan's confidence in the teams' ability to compete, and make the front office hesitant to take unprecedented, but similar free agent risks in the future.
If we were to implement the $55 million salary floor that I proposed in part I of this article, exactly five teams would fit into this category where they'd have to boost their miserly payroll a bit to meet the new regulations. Those teams would be the Nationals, Pirates, Athletics, Rays, and Marlins.
Some may argue why teams like the Rays and Marlins both of whom finished above .500 in 2008, would be forced to take on extra contracts (i.e. a dead weight veteran) or give more money to their younger players just to meet the guidelines. The Marlins, for example, under this system, would be forced to more than double their entire $21 million dollar payroll.
While this may seem counter-productive to a team that has clearly defied the system, what about perpetual losing situations like those in Montreal/Washington or Pittsburgh where neither team has made the playoffs since the Clinton Administration or longer in the Expos/Nationals case?
At the $49 million the 2008 Pirates spent, what good could an extra $6 million do for them? First off, this year it could have netted them one of Orlando Hudson or Orlando Cabrera either of whom would have been substantial additions to the youth movement annual occurring in the Steel City. Both would have provided much needed experience and veteran leadership from a club house which always lacks it since they can't afford the big names.
Secondly, it would could be allocated to their draft movement and possibly could enable them to offer larger than usual bonuses to their prospects thus expanding their ability to draft who they actually wanted and not who they could afford. For any doubt on this possibility, consider the Minnesota Twins, with a 2008 payroll of $62 million, actually had $14 million committed to Joe Nathan, Justin Morneau, and Michael Cuddyer in the form of contract-extension bonuses which isn't reflected in their payroll.
The Marlins could use the roughly $34 million to give extensions to arbitration- eligible players such as 2B Dan Uggla, RF Jeremy Hermida, or ace pitcher Ricky Nolasco so that they never actually meet arbitration and price themselves off the team. This would better ensure their ability to contend in the long term.
Additionally, they could offer wise extensions to productive players such as 3B Jorge Cantu or Josh Willingham so that they'd never have to trade them in the first place as was the case of the latter.
There are many ways to be creative with a salary floor, yet not force teams to break up good things if they have them going as is the case with the Florida teams. They'd also assist in ending perpetually losing situations in markets like Pittsburgh and Washington and thus give baseball and its fans, an overall better product.
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