Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Major League Baseball Salary Cap

Should Major League Baseball have a salary cap? In one word, "YES". But this is a blog, and it is my opinion so I will not leave you with a one word answer.

A salary cap, is a rule put in place to keep large market teams from constantly signing all of the top free agents, by limiting the amount of money that a team can spend on it's roster. The New York Yankees are well known for opening the check book come the off-season, while a team like the Kansas City Royals sit back and contemplate whether or not they want to sign one of the lower tier free agents.

Would a salary cap create more parity in baseball? Not necessarily. All it takes is that owner that takes his $120mil salary cap and spends $75mil on his team and puts the remainder of that money into his pocket. Now, if the cap was designed so that owners had to spend a certain percentage of that money on players it would, A) keep one team from signing everyone, B) allow smaller market teams to be competitive in bidding for top free agents and C) if a team has a good young core similar to what the Nationals have, the hard cap would allow them to sign some of their young players long term if they felt that they did not need a top free agent. 

We watched the Miami Marlins last season, bump their payroll from $56,944,000 in 2011 to $111,598,000 in 2012 only to end up in last place and dismantle the team this off season. This is the downside to signing big dollar free agents, but it also sucks for the fans that did go out and support the team. The fans that love baseball and want to see a talented team on the field. Now they will get a team full of journeymen and prospects who may play hard but will most likely end up with 100+ losses.  If here was a salary cap the team may have thought twice about who they were signing, knowing that a trading partner may not be there if things go south.
Yankee fans are stunned this off season as they sit and wonder where the spending went. The team has decided to attempt to get under the luxury tax cap next season so they have been frugal this off season. An off season when they actually need help around the diamond. If there was a cap, the team and fans alike would know where they were salary wise and what the off-season may bring.

When I first thought about the MLB having a salary cap, I thought, well it may limit trading because teams were having to work under a cap. But the National Basketball Association has a soft cap* that works for them and the league still makes plenty of trades. The National Football League has a salary cap, and though trades happen far less often, the creative general managers find ways to make deals happen. 

Why is there not a salary cap in baseball you ask? Unlike football and basketball, the MLBPA or Major League Baseball Players Association* has a lot more power than the players associations in the other organizations. In 1994, Major League Baseball lost its World Series due to a players strike, brought about by the owners and Major League Baseball asking for a salary cap to help the small market clubs. The players believe that a salary cap would decrease their salary, further showing me that winning comes second to getting paid.

Will we ever see a salary cap in baseball? Probably, but do not expect it to be in the near future. As long as Bud Selig is the Commissioner of baseball and the Players Association continues to throw their weight around Baseball will continue to see salaries soar and the big markets get richer.

*NBA Soft Cap - This salary cap is referred to as the "soft cap" because teams can go over the cap due to the veterans exemption rule. This allows teams to sign veterans that have been with the team for a long period of time (i.e. Derek Jeter, Chipper Jones) without it affecting the cap.

*Major League Baseball Players Association - This group was formed as the union for Major League Baseball Players.

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