Friday, April 12, 2024

Scott Boras offers solution to fix free agency for MLB’s middle class amid players’ complaints of slow winter

One of the irritants reportedly causing players to question Tony Clark and Bruce Meyer, the current brain trust of the Major League Baseball Players Association, is the eroding “middle class.” That is, the group of players who are deemed by teams to be good enough to stick around and make it to free agency, but not good enough to be rewarded with a long-term or otherwise lucrative contract.

Agent Scott Boras has found himself in the midst of the MLBPA controversy, with some players alleging that Meyer is too “ideologically aligned” with Boras. Whatever the case, that isn’t stopping Boras from publicly offering his ideas to address some of what he perceives to be the marketplace’s inequities. 

To wit, Boras offered a suggestion that could benefit the so-called middle class after the San Francisco Giants‘ introductory press conference with Blake Snell

“I think having veterans in the clubhouse is very important for young players. They create better winning environments because they are more familiar with the league,” Boras told The Score’s Travis Sawchik. “I think there are players in that age group, 32 or so, they should have a luxury-tax exclusion. An amount of $15 million on down, if you sign a veteran player in that age bracket, they are excluded from your luxury tax. 

“That would put those players in their own category. The prohibition is (because) those players are usually added late, and the owners are saying, ‘Because of my tax situation, I am not going to sign this player.'”

As it stands, MLB’s luxury tax — essentially an unofficial salary cap — does not include exceptions for certain player types. There is some precedent for Boras’ suggestion found in other professional American male sports leagues, however. The NBA allows teams to exceed the salary cap to re-sign free agents provided they possess the player’s “Early Bird Rights. Additionally, MLS offers teams both a homegrown player subsidy and the ability to pay several “designated players” as much as they desire without it counting beyond the league’s maximum salary

While MLB is no stranger to introducing complex mechanisms into the roster section of the Collective Bargaining Agreement, it’s anyone’s guess if such a rule would materially enhance the market for the middle class free agent. 

After all, teams would still have to explicitly choose an older, more expensive player over a younger one earning closer to the league minimum. In this day and age, where teams are obsessed — at times to the point of detriment — with the concept of surplus value, it’s possible that Boras’ well-intended proposal would have minimal effect.

That’s part of the difficulty facing the MLBPA — no matter who leads the union, they’ll be attempting to cut back against league trends that are difficult to legislate. 

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