The most storied franchise in American sports, the New York Yankees, have been crowned 2009 World Series Champions. With this title comes admiration, jealousy, and a cold hard look at the parity situation in Major League Baseball.
The payroll for the New York Yankees in 2009 was approximately $200 million. They spent $50 million more than the next largest spender, the New York Mets and about $88 million more than NL Champion Philadelphia Phillies.
Since the Yankees are able to outspend every other team in baseball by wide margins and because it is considered a given that small market teams cannot compete, there have been calls for a salary cap to be put into place. The idea is that if we limit the ability for big market clubs to spend on top talent, there would be more parity and more competitiveness in baseball.
I believe that this theory is incorrect. If MLB instituted a salary cap, there would still be many ways around it that will favor big teams, such as large signing bonuses. A salary cap would not accomplish the competitiveness that most baseball fans seek. This is why I propose a radical solution: a talent cap.
The details of such a plan still need to be hammered out, but the basic premise is to assign every player in baseball a value grade based upon player statistics. This is similar to what the Elias Sports Bureau does to determine draft pick compensation. In this situation, each team would be given a certain amount of slots for type A players, type B players and so on. Teams would then be unable to put a type A player at every position and must choose which players to sign according to the overall makeup of their team.
Teams would be able to compensate the players they sign to whatever amount they want. So for instance if the Yankees decide that they want Alex Rodriguez to be one of their Type A players, they can still give him a large contract, but that means that one of their Type A slots is used up.
Two questions that may arise are: What about rookies that emerge as high value players? What about teams that are unable to afford paying for a Type A player, even under the new system?
To the first question, teams that are at their talent cap limit, but have a young player who emerges as an all-star such as a Dustin Pedroia, are given a short grace period by which to adjust their roster. Maybe its one season, maybe two, but soon the team would have to make a decision on whether to sign their young player to one of their talent slots and drop another player or to trade that player away.
To the second question, teams would be under a talent cap, meaning teams would be able trade their talent slots to other teams for cash or other slots. Lets say that the Pirates have their Type A talent slots, but either can't afford to fill them all up or don't want to. Now lets say the Yankees have a new Type A player that they really want to keep.
The Yankees can then offer $50 million to the Pirates to rent the slot. The Pirates own it, but the Yankees rent it. Or perhaps the Yankees trade two Type B slots for a Type A. This allows the Yankees to use their money to get better, but it still compensates the Pirates.
There are a few kinks that still need to be worked out and this is a very radical proposal, but capping payrolls will not bring competitiveness back to baseball. The big market teams will always have the advantages. The only way to truly restore parity and the ability of every team to win a championship, is to cap the amount of talent that can go to every team.