Padres prospect Francisco Mejia has dropped his lawsuit against the prospect investment firm known as Big League Advance, as ESPN.com’s Jerry Crasnick recently reported. He had filed suit in April seeking to be released from his contractual relationship with BLA.
Mejia, who is considered a top-flight prospect, was dealt from the Indians to the Padres over the summer. He has seen only brief MLB time, and hasn’t yet cracked the big leagues with the Friars, but has turned in a strong .293/.338/.471 hitting performance at the Triple-A level this season.
Accordingly, Mejia still hasn’t earned much money in the majors but could well turn into a high-dollar player. With the end of this litigation, Big League Advance stands to receive a ten-percent cut of Mejia’s MLB earnings — the amount that the sides had evidently agreed upon in a series of contracts. To achieve that interest in Mejia’s future, BLA provided him a total of $360K while he was playing in the low minors.
Whatever one thinks of the business model, former MLB hurler and BLA CEO Michael Schwimer undeniably comes away from this episode with a clear win. Mejia not only disclaimed his prior accusations in his statement, but apologized to and even issued a glowing endorsement of Big League Advance.
Had this lawsuit been meritorious, it might have posed some problems for BLA’s burgeoning business. Instead, the outfit will not only continue to draw a piece of the salary of contracted players who are already in the majors, but will perhaps increasingly factor in the ever-evolving transactional landscape.
As ever, most minor-leaguers play on meager incomes. While some achieve major bonuses at the outset of their careers, the majority get by without the benefit of significant up-front cash. Though early-career extensions increasingly represent a potential source of relatively early-in-time income, that’s a route that’s only available to the highest-regarded talent and that also means sacrificing earning upside.
Given those factors, it is not difficult to see how BLA might occupy some of the space here. Indeed, so long as the business is fairly operated, it may function in effect to spread the benefits of MLB earnings to many young players, only some of whom will achieve the full and final promise of millions in salary, without capping any individual player’s future earning capacity. (Needless to say, a sizeable chunk of change will also be expected to flow to BLA and its investors.)
There are many ways in which this approach could impact the broader market, too, if BLA (and, potentially, competitors) increasingly provide up-front money to pre-MLB players. It’s also a somewhat murky and potentially complicated contractual situation to introduce, particularly if a player’s interests ultimately fall out of alignment with the financial priorities of BLA. Needless to say, it’s a fascinating new realm to keep an eye on.