Contract Extensions Changing The Free Agent Market

One of baseball's rising stars recently told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he was concerned about the flurry of contract extensions in baseball and the effect it could have on all players.  Free agency, the player argued, helped to make the players union into the powerhouse that it is today.  More extensions around baseball means fewer top players reaching free agency, which leads some to believe that there won't be anyone to drive the top of the market.  However, agent Scott Boras and union chief Michael Weiner don't view the increasing number of contract extensions as a problem.

Weiner says that he only asks that players exercise their Basic Agreement rights and is fine with players taking extensions over free agency when it suits their needs.  Boras has a slightly different take on things, saying that some players don't have the right agent representing them in contract talks with their club.  

The biggest problem the union faces is that there should be more criteria and practical experience before agents can be qualified to represent players with the decisions at hand,” Boras said. “A large number of players believe that a social relationship is the primary foundation — in other words, ‘I like the guy,’ rather than qualifications."

Rosenthal goes on to note that precautions against deals that are too team-friendly are built into the regulations.  Agents are required to consult with the union when representing arbitration-eligible players or working on a contract that will cover arbitration years.  Meanwhile, agents without arbitration experience must consult with an attorney who has gone through the process before.  That means that Anthony Rizzo's seven-year, $41MM pact – which was widely viewed as a win for the Cubs – had input from the union along the way.

While the money is still flowing in for players with extensions, its hard to entirely dismiss what the open market can do in terms of pushing the ceiling.  Justin Verlander, for example, would have given a bigger boost to David Price if he had waited to hit the open market after the 2014 season and signed for $30MM rather than $25.7MM per year in his extension with the Tigers.  For now, the union is fine with the status quo, but Rosenthal could see things changing if the union feels as though its not getting its fair share of revenue.

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