Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Modest Proposal

I'm going to suggest this time that Major League Baseball owners should engage in collusion.

But, you say, that's illegal, immoral, and possibly even un-American.

Normally, yes. In the past, when owners have colluded, they've done so to lower the market for talent. In other words, they'd agree among themselves not to pay higher salaries to free agents. These "gentleman's" agreements had the effect of forcing a free-agent player to take less money than he would have gotten without the collusion.

But now we have the case of Tim Lincecum. The Giants' young two-time Cy Young Award winner has filed an arbitration demand of $13 million for next year. The Giants have countered with $8 mil. Since the arbitration process is binary (the arbitrator must choose one number or the other), Lincecum can lose and still set a record for a starting pitcher in his first year of arbitration. In fact, he'd just about double the old record (Dontrelle Willis and Cole Hamels at $4.35 million).

Now, the owners do not want to see Lincecum win and set a crazy-high new bar for arbitration cases. Most observers agree it's in the Giants' best interest to work out a multi-year deal with Lincecum before they roll the dice at the arbitration hearing. So here's my suggestion: collude. Get all the teams to pony up part of the price of that multiyear deal.

The effect would be to get Lincecum at something lower than his $13 million demand, thus preserving a lower market price for future phenoms (who will still be exceedingly wealthy young men). Lincecum still gets rich, plus gets the security of a multi-year deal.

And the other teams can enjoy watching Linceum whip them all summer, knowing they own a little piece of him.

No comments: