We’ve discussed recently the ways in which international politics can influence baseball’s player market, and now there’s an important example of domestic politics to consider. As USA Today’s Elaine Povich reports, President Obama’s new federal budget proposal contains a provision that would preclude states and municipalities from issuing tax-exempt bonds as a means of financing professional sports stadiums, including ballparks. This is an issue with widespread implications that go well beyond the game of baseball, of course, but within the MLB (and MiLB) world, the measure could cut off a source for future revenue streams. Taxpayer subsidies of various kinds fueled the last (and still-ongoing) round of ballpark building, which along with TV revenue has helped to drive player spending.
Here are some more notes from around the game:
- MLBTR readers are no strangers to the idea of service time considerations, which last year focused on players like George Springer of the Astros and Gregory Polanco of the Pirates. Now, Cubs super-prospect Kris Bryant is squarely at issue, and Mike Petriello of Fangraphs opines that the league needs to fix what he calls a broken system. Coming up with a workable (and agreeable) solution is the primary roadblock here, of course. Petriello suggests a change in rules: rather than requiring 172 days of service over a season to reach one full year for purposes of determining free agent eligibility, which allows teams to keep prospects down for a short time to begin the year in order to add a full season of future control, his system would allow a player to accumulate a year of service if they reach 100 days (or some similar number) of MLB active roster time in a given season. That would largely keep the present considerations intact, of course, but would shift the math in favor of calling up players who are truly ready to provide value at the big league level. As Petriello notes, this would function as an obvious boon to players, who would reach free agency sooner, likely requiring significant concessions from the union in other areas. Union chief Tony Clark has indicated that he expects negotiations on the next CBA to ramp up in early 2016, the year in which the present agreement will expire.
- As we’ve discussed previously, former Nationals closer Rafael Soriano is the most eligible free agent remaining. August Fagerstrom of Fangraphs explores the reasons for his continued availability, explaining that Soriano’s tendency to give up hard contact in the second half — and related questions about his stuff — have hurt his value. Soriano still looks to be a capable big league reliever, of course, and it could be that agent Scott Boras is taking things down to the wire because he is confident in the still-existing market demand, which figures only to increase as injuries arise.
- Hector Olivera remains the most interesting free agent, of course, though he has only been officially available for less than two weeks to this point. Ben Badler of Baseball America provides an updated scouting report, noting that Olivera’s bat still looks strong but that there are some questions about his range and arm in the infield. While much of this ground has been covered before, the report is well worth a look as it compiles the most recent opinions. For what it’s worth, in a series of polls, MLBTR readers have predicted that Olivera will land a guarantee in the $40MM to $50MM range, with the Braves, Padres, and Dodgers being the likeliest landing spots.