A few threads and articles have suggested various ways to "fix" MLB lately... I have a suggestion that I have not seen discussed.
I think the greatest danger facing MLB is the current regime of the haves and the have nots... certain teams have the budget to be competitive three out of every four years, where as others must shoot for one out of every four years. I do not think this is sustainable.
Since a salary cap does not look like an option, the owners and players have settled on a luxury tax. The problem with this solution is that it creates resentment in fans who believe that their owner does not care about winning and is keeping his payroll at the bottom to rake in free money from the contenders. (True or not, that perception is there.)
I think the new FA compensation program shows how the luxury tax should go as well. The teams with the highest payrolls should surrender draft picks and/or 40 man roster slots to those with the smallest rather than, or in addittion to cash.
Think about it... small market teams have to focus on devleoping players internally since they do not have the cash to go out and sign the high dollar free agents. Sure, there are teams like Tampa that do that very well for a while, but over time the cash resources of the big dogs will win out. Why not balance the playing field by giving the have-nots more options to work with?
The problem is making this palatable for the players to sign off on.
I am not sure of the specific details, but I was thinking something along the lines of:
- Top 10 teams for salary in the current year surrender their first round pick for the following year.
- Teams that exceed a certain dollar figure of salary also lose one or more 40 man roster slots for one calendar year (depending on how much they exceed the max).
The bottom ten teams for salary then "bid" at auction on the surrendered picks and roster slots. Their bids are in percentage increases to their respective payrolls for the upcoming year. For example, if the Yankees surrender their 1st round pick, the Pirates could "bid" that they will increase their payroll numbers by 3% if they receive the pick. The Royals could then counter with a 4% increase in salary. (The same percentage increase could not be used to pay for more than one pick... if the owner fails to actually show the increased salary percentage... they lose their first round pick + more the following year). One more thing... there would be a minimum opening bid to secure a pick... say at 3 percent increase.
I think the players will like it because it creates an incentive for broad based spending accross the league. This is not enough of a disincentive for the "haves" like NYY or Boston to try to lower their payrolls to escape the top ten, but it should be enough incentive to convince a Pittsburgh to increase payroll because they get an immediate return on their investment. Currently have-not owners have a financial incentive to keep payrolls as low as possible to qualify for more "luxury tax" money. The "have" owners resent this and want proof that the money is being spent to build baseball. This ensures that the team they surrender picks to will be the one that is willing to pony up more cash. Further, since the only way to secure the extra picks is to increase payroll, it prevents teams from continually lurking at the bottom in order to gain the advantage.
The fans will like it because it will cause a legitimate leveling of the playing field. Yes, the have-nots will still lose their stars once they run out of arbitration years, but under this system, the have-nots will have a greater opportunity to restock quicker.
My impetus for this idea was the NYY "core of four". It seems just wrong that the Yankees should have the same access to the amateur talent as the have-nots while having far greater access to the free agent market. The benefit of home grown talent is also financial. Free agents are never as popular with the fan base as home grown talent. That financial boon in fan support should be redirected to the teams that need it most.
I know there are lots of issues in the eaches.. but what are your thoughts about the concept generally?