Baseball’s Biggest Problem

The biggest problem facing Major League Baseball, bar none, is its regressive, exploitative wage structure.

For the first six full years of a player’s major league service time, he makes below market value for his services. For three or four years, depending on when he’s called up, a player makes the league minimum. It goes without saying that this is detrimental to labor, as regardless of a man’s output, he’s paid less than a tenth of what a win above replacement is worth on the open market. This creates obscene excess value, even outside of extremes like Mike Trout, Bryce Harper, and Clayton Kershaw.

In the 2017 season, the Boston Red Sox got 2.6 wins above replacement out of outfielder Andrew Benintendi. With a conservative estimate of a win above replacement being worth about $6.5 million, his 2017 season was worth $16.9 million dollars on the open market, and he only earned the league minimum, which was $535,000. continueaboutgulf

The arbitration system, which kicks in after the years at league minimum, is not much better for labor. Again, the system of players and teams bargaining over salary to an arbitrator suppresses wages and breeds resentment between teams and labor. It’s in the team’s best interest to downplay the abilities of their layers, and the outdated nature of the data that is allowed to be used in arbitration creates a gulf between value and earnings, on top of the depression that arbitration intends to create.

This offseason, with the luxury tax’s harsh penalties making it into something of a hard salary cap, many of the league’s best free agents are still without teams because teams are unwilling to meet their demand in years and/or salary. In the past, players have been able to make up for lost earnings in their min/arbitration years with big paydays in free agency. But if at no point a player can earn true market value for his abilities, the system must be changed.

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Arsenal & The Age Curve: The Alexis and Ozil Replacements

At the start of the 2018/19 season, at least one of Alexis Sanchez and Mesut Ozil will likely be donning a new team’s colors. Despite the dent this will leave in the squad, the opportunity to start a shift in the squad towards youth must be taen.

The losses of Ozil and/or Sanchez will solidify the club’s standing as 6th best in the league, and the lack of quality past them will almost definitely force a lengthy rebuild. Such a rebuild will require the North London club’s star attackers to be replaced swiftly with promising, pre-prime attackers.

Such holes will be virtually impossible to fill perfectly, but a choice of two of these four men, or some of similar playing and/or age profiles would be a step in the right direction.

Florian Thauvin, Marseille, age 24

After his perceived flop at (absolutely dysfunctional) Newcastle United in the Premier League, Thauvin has been nothing short of exceptional back in France. He turns 25 in two weeks, so he’s on the older side of the names that should be considered, but his output more than makes up for it. He’s top 5 in expected goal contributions per 90 in Ligue 1, assists over 2 and a half shots per 90 and takes nearly four himself. He’s proven himself to be an exceptional player in a very good league, and should be the first name on the shortlist.

Malcom, Bordeaux, age 20

At only 20 years of age, Malcom is playing remarkably well for Bordeaux. He’s 18th in Ligue 1 in expected goal contributions per 90 (0.52) amongst players with over 700 minutes played, and that should only improve with a move to Arsenal and away from complete and utter freedom to fire off pot shots from distance. He contributes directly to nearly 5 shots per game, and is one of only 23 players to average at least 2 shots and 2 key passes per 90, and is younger than all of the others to do so. At 20 years of age, he’ll have multiple years of prime level output remaining when the rebuild should be completed, providing both a lengthened window and more margin for error in the coming years. David Ornstein of BBC Sport has confirmed the club’s interest in Malcom as a replacement for Alexis, which is a great sign for the rest of the retool.

Richarlison, Watford, age 20

Richarlison, like his compatriot, Malcom, is performing like a man many years his senior for a midtable club in a top 5 league. He’s taken over three shots per 90, and over two in the penalty area thus far in nearly 2000 PL minutes. This output, for Watford, at 20 years old bodes incredibly well for his profile going forward, especially given a move to a better creative club. A minor flag on his game is the relative lack of creative output, with barely one shot assist per 90, but shot volume like his at his age makes up well for it.

Nabil Fekir, Lyonnais, age 24

Fekir has recovered remarkably after a knee injury in 2015 cast doubts over whether or not he would live up to his massive potential. He’s contributed to over a goal per 90, directly contributes to over five shots per 90, and completes over 3 take-ons per 90. This absurd production would be a welcome addition to the club, and he would almost certainly jump at a move to the Emirates.

 

 

 

MLB Awards

AL MVP: Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees

Despite not even being ensured a starting spot in right field at the start of spring training, Judge put up a mammoth season. He led all of MLB with 8.2 fWAR, raked to the tune of 52 dingers, a .430 wOBA, and a 173 wRC+. That, along with his plus defense in the outfield edges out the MVP over Jose Altuve, who was dominant in his own right.

NL MVP: Joey Votto, 1B, Reds

The NL MVP race this year was a dead heat. Charlie Blackmon, Giancarlo Stanton, Nolan Arenado, and my choice for the award, Votto, are all fine picks. But yet again, Votto backed up his status as the best hitter in baseball. He slashed an absurd .320/.454/.578, racked up a .428 Weighted On Base Average (no park adjustment), a 165 wRC+ and 168 OPS+ (both park adjusted).

My MLB Relievers of The Year

AL Reliever of the Year: Craig Kimbrel, RHP, Red Sox

Craig Kimbrel recovered remarkably from his relatively down year in 2016, with a return to his electric, dominant self. He sported a 1.43 ERA and a 1.42 FIP in 69 innings with peripherals to match.

NL Reliever of the Year: Kenley Jansen, RHP, Dodgers

Jansen personified dominance all throughout the season, notching an absurd 1.32 ERA and 1.31 FIP. When he or KImbrel entered the game for their respective teams, the game was all but over.

My MLB Rookies of the Year

AL Rookie of the Year: Aaron Judge, RF, Yankees

Despite not even being ensured a starting spot in right field at the start of spring training, Judge put up a mammoth rookie season. He led all of MLB with 8.2 WAR, raked to the tune of 52 dingers, a .430 wOBA, and a 173 wRC+. That, along with his plus defense makes this an easy choice. Despite Red Sox fans’ delusions of grandeur, it is not close. Judge is the AL MVP, and it should unanimous.

NL Rookie of the Year: Cody Bellinger, 1B/OF, Dodgers

Bellinger’s powerful bat, plus baserunning, and defensive versatility proved immensely valuable for, arguably, the best club in baseball this past season. He put up a 138 wRC+, and 4.0 WAR, exceptional numbers, especially for a rookie. Bellinger is sure to be a force in Chavez Ravine for years to come.

Celtics’ Offseason

The Boston Celtics continue to make massive mistakes this summer. Save for their (admittedly big) signing of Gordon Hayward from the Utah Jazz, they’ve made wrong move after wrong move. Trading Avery Bradley to the Detroit Pistons for Marcus Morris to clear the cap room for Hayward, trading away the first pick (Markelle Fultz) for the Lakers’ 2-5 protected 1st round pick in 2018 and the third pick, and now giving up a small fortune to pry wantaway Kyrie Irving from the Cavs. Basketball is about getting superstar talent, and they’ve almost surely slashed their chances of landing anyone with that potential with the Tatum and Kyrie moves. Especially with the direction that the NBA is moving, Tatum is a massively inferior piece to Fultz if your end is to win a title. Teams simply can not afford to carry wings without consistent three point range or defensive ability. The decision to trade Avery Bradley as a cap dump, rather than Marcus Smart, when he’s widely regarded as one of the best defensive guards on the planet and is a near elite three point shooter is a head scratcher. Even more shocking is the move for Kyrie Irving. They gave up Isaiah Thomas, who is nearly equal to Irving on the court, Jae Crowder, the only man on the roster who could have held his own defensively against LeBron James, the Nets’ unprotected first round pick in 2018 (which, again, could have turned into an #1 on a title team level talent), and Ante Zizic for Irving, a clear step back both in the short term and the long term. Thomas was, admittedly, an expiring contract and was going to leave if Boston didn’t cough up a max deal, but he’s an elite scorer of the ball and is much more valuable that this return for him implies. These moves all are remarkably confusing, given that even now Boston is no closer to beating the Golden State Warriors than they were at the start of the summer. They mortgaged the future for an incredibly bleak present, and it is sure to bite Danny Ainge.