From The Toronto Star:
GRIFFIN: Jays chances of signing Santana takes a hit after Jimenez signs with O’s
What happened? Why is the free-agent compensation system not working for the players? It wasn’t just Santana. Others like shortstop Stephen Drew and first-baseman Kendrys Morales are still seeking employment, while premium free agents like outfielder Nelson Cruz and right-hander Ubaldo Jimenez only were able to find work after spring training had already started. So why?
Make no mistake about it, this system of free-agent compensation will be revisited and changed when the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is negotiated in 2016. When he passed through Dunedin in late February, the seventh of his scheduled 30 camp visits, the MLBPA union chief Tony Clark emphasized that anything to do with baseball’s important joint drug agreement can be re-visited and re-opened at any time, but that it is nigh on impossible with the terms of free agency.
“At the end of the day, the player and the agent need to make the best decision they can with respect to where they are in their career, where the club is,” Clark said.
Clark is right, but the fact is the onus for the failure of the new free-agent system seemingly not working for players has been placed squarely on the shoulders of the clubs, with an ugly word like “collusion” once again rearing its ugly head, albeit under the collective breath of agents.
Basically, here’s how free agency now works. Every qualified six-year free agent declares himself in the several days after the World Series. There is another group of released or non-tendered free agents that are not in this same defined category.
A team can then make a “qualifying offer” to its own free agent, a figure mandated by MLB, equal to the average of the Top 125 contracts from the season just played. For this crop of free agents the qualifier was $14.1 million. But the kicker is that it’s just a one-year deal and, normally, primo free agents are looking for the gold at the end of the rainbow.
The part of the qualifying offer that the owners made sure of, and that has become a severe bone of contention, is that if a player refuses the qualifier and signs elsewhere, the new signing club loses its first-round draft pick and the former team will receive a compensation pick between the first and second round. A team’s first rounder is protected if they were horrible and are picking 1-10 in June.
Talented free agents like Santana, Drew and Morales this year and Kyle Lohse, Adam LaRoche and Michael Bourn last season may feel like they were cheated by ownership when nobody came knocking offering what they believed they were worth. But in the two years of the system, not one player among nine in 2013 and the 13 in 2014 has ever accepted the qualifying offer. And the refusals have come almost immediately. Is that a concerted move by agents and the union? Maybe. They all went for the knockout.
“There’s no doubt about it, with that offer, there’s a decision that those guys have to make,” Clark said. “But to the extent that no player has accepted it, at this point, no player has. You’re starting to hear rumblings and concerns in general about time frames and when guys might sign. Yes we’re paying attention to all of it. Does that mean in the short term guys may make different decisions going forward? Perhaps. All I do know is that we have quality baseball players at home and that’s not good for the player and that’s not good for the clubs.”
I suggest Blue Jays’ GM Alex Anthopoulos may have delivered a strong message stolen and adapted from that true Santana superstar — Carlos — and his breakthrough hit, Evil Ways.
“You’ve got to change your evil ways, Ervin, before I stop loving you and every word that I say, it’s true. You’ve got me running and hiding all over town. You’ve got me sneaking and peeping and running you down. This can’t go on. Lord knows you’ve got to change your evil ways.”