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Wednesday, November 28, 2012

Back to the Future: one year contracts?

Some of the comments about the death of the original pioneer baseball union leader Marvin Miller dealt with his having negotiated for limited free agency, rather than having all players eligible for free agency every year.  Supposedly Miller did that intentionally to limit the number of free agents in any particular season.  I am skeptical but don't actually know whether Miller was really clever on this point or simply lucked out.  Once many players started signing multi-year contracts, the pool of free agents per year would be limited anyway so I'm not sure this was even needed but as they say in the movie Who Shot Liberty Valance?: "When the legend becomes fact, print the legend."

But it got me thinking.  What if players signed one year contracts, instead of trying for long multi-year deals?  I can understand why older players would want to extend their market value onto their final seasons when they are likely to be less productive.  Yankee pitcher Hiroki Kuroda signed a one year contract to play in 2012 at age 37 and recently signed another one year contract to pitch for the Yankees again in 2013 when he will be 38.  That makes him a double exception.  For 2009 through 2012 Kuroda was paid $12, $15, $12, $10 million.

There's probably a simple explanation as to what would happen but what would happen if all players were free agents after every season?

Could this happen with the type of collective bargaining agreement currently in place?  I'm guessing that if teams agreed informally to offer only one year deals that it would be construed by the courts as collusion.  But what if market leader New York Yankees announced this as their new strategy going forward?  What if other teams followed?

How would the players react?  Obviously, this would be a good strategy for some but not all players.  Twenty year old MVP runner up Mike Trout might benefit.  But what about Alex Rodriguez who will be 38 in July?

I'm a bit surprised that more players don't try for one year contracts for various reasons.

Marvin Miler's old nemesis Bowie Kuhn predicted chaos and he may have been correct if Miller had not agreed to limit free agency.

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