Wednesday, March 5, 2008

How About Some Perspective?

Nick Markakis is one of many pre-arbitration players around the league who has had his contract renewed in the last week or so. The Orioles and Markakis were not able to come to a long-term agreement and had to settle for another one year deal - $455,000, a $55,000 raise from 2007. He'll be eligible for arbitration for the first time following the 2008 season and should be looking at a sizable pay raise. Nevertheless, Markakis was disappointed that they couldn't get a long term deal done now. Such a deal would have paid him much more than the $455,000 he'll make this year.

Some players have come to long term agreements in their pre-arbitration years. Rockies shortstop, Troy Tulowitzki signed a 6 year, $30 million contract in January, which buys out his last 2 pre-arbitration years and all 3 years that he would be arbitration eligible. Deals such as these are usually good for both the player and the club. It gives the player security and a much quicker road to big bucks. The advantage for the club is that while they are paying more now, the yearly salaries agreed to during the arbitration years could end up being much less than the player would have received if he had gone to arbitration.

Contracts like Tulowitzki's are becoming more commonplace, but are still far from the norm. However, some players are showing a sense of entitlement to a big pay-day.

Brewers first baseman Prince Fielder and Phillies pitcher Cole Hamels have both openly spoken to the press about how they feel about their contract renewals. Fielder says that it's about respect, and he's not getting enough. Hamels called it an insult, a low blow. C'mon guys! Prince, the Brewers renewed your contract for $670,000; 50% more than they were required to. You need to sit back, look at where you are and try to gain some perspective.

This is how the system works, fellas:
The first 3 full seasons that you are in the Major Leagues, you are only paid the major league minimum or slightly more. There might be slight increases; I'm not sure. Oops, I didn't do my homework. Anything more than that that your employer decides to pay you is just gravy. Be grateful and keep working.

After those 3 seasons, you are eligible for salary arbitration. Each year you will exchange figures with your employer. You will say what you think you are worth, and your employer will do the same. You are more than welcome to compromise and meet somewhere in the middle. In fact, most do. If you don't compromise, then it goes to court. A neutral arbitrator will listen to your arguments for why you deserve the salary you suggested and your employer will argue for the salary they suggested. The arbitrator will then decide which salary you deserve. It's one or the other now; there is no compromise.

After those 3 years of salary arbitration, you are a free agent and you can sign with any team you want, for however much money you can get from them.

This is the system that YOUR union, the MLB Players Association, agreed to. If you don't think the system is fair, take it up with them. If you're as good as you think you are, you'll still be around 4-5 years from now and you'll get your pay-day.

In the meantime, why don't you take advice from veteran Braves pitcher John Smoltz, who said, "It happens to everybody. Just [play]." The game is challenging enough when you're not upset.


jason said...

I'll take issue with you on this one. The system is set up for the rule not the exception. Nick is the exception that - especially for the Orioles - should get that long term contract right now. Why take the chance on souring the relationship? Why take the chance that he explodes and decides he'll just wait and test the Free Agency waters? The Orioles were perfectly within their rights to not offer the contract extension - but with no one else to pay right now - why not make Markakis your first of many longer term contracts to build this team around.

Ryan H. said...

I never said that the Orioles shouldn't sign Markakis to a long term deal. I think they should. I mentioned how long term deals with young stars in Markakis' position can be beneficial to both the player and the team, and I think that in Markakis' case, it would be a great move.

This post was more of a rebuttal to those players that feel like the lack of a long term deal is a crime committed against them, ala Fielder and Hamels. Markakis is disappointed (of course he is; we all are), but he hasn't gone to the press and spoken of the "injustice of it all". There is no "injustice". If you couldn't get a deal worked out, there's no point in complaining to the press. This is just how the system works. The 1st 3 years, the employer has the leverage; years 3-6 it starts to tilt a little more in the players favor; and the rest of their careers they have all the leverage. You couldn't get a deal worked out now? Then keep working and try again later. Show the organization that they'd be stupid not to lock you up long term.

As for Markakis' contract situation, I expect that he will get signed to a long term deal next winter. MacPhail is more prone to give him a lengthy & lucrative deal when facing arbitration.