Regarding an MLB salary floor

This is several days old, but I wanted to highlight a quote from new MLB Player Union Chief Mike Weiner.

One, we really do believe in markets. Obviously, there are some restrictions on markets in our collective bargaining agreement. But our thought has been that, if a club legitimately trying to compete has a plan that calls for them to be at a particularly low payroll for a given year as part of a longer-range plan to compete, then management should have that flexibility. Clubs have done a great job in Major League Baseball at the local level of generating revenue, and we really didn’t want to do anything to interfere with that.

This is essentially my main argument against a salary cap/salary floor system. A team that is in a rebuilding situation, much like the Pirates, can benefit from having a low payroll. The Pirates’ roster is currently made up of mostly 0-3 players, players that make close to the league minimum. Hopefully, as the team develops in the next 3-5 years, many of those players will improve to the point that they will become quite costly. If the Pirates become a contending team in the next few years, it will be very difficult to keep Andrew McCutchen and Pedro Alvarez and Jose Tabata and Brad Lincoln and Lastings Milledge and Charlie Morton as they approach arbitration and free agency. It will be even more difficult if management is forced to pour unnecessary money into the major league payroll in 2010 and 2011, simply to meet a predetermined salary threshold. Not only will it be wasted resources, it could also prevent the team from making wise baseball decisions. What if the Pirates were forced to release Lastings Milledge this offseason and replace him with an inflated salary for someone like Rick Ankiel, just to increase payroll?

There is no doubt that payroll disparity is a major issue in baseball right now. But adding a salary floor (and a salary cap) would cause more harm than good.

By the way, this is what I wrote back in February.

The team is rebuilding. Consequently, management is spending little at the major league level while pouring resources into the draft, player development, and international scouting. If the Pirates were forced to add another $20 million or so to the major league payroll, the rebuilding process would suffer greatly. For one, it would take resources away from areas that are much more important right now. In addition, it would force the team to add free agents that may not fit with the current roster and/or long-term plan, simply to meet the payroll requirement. In essence, it removes financial flexibility from the type of franchise that needs that flexibility the most.

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