Early in the MLB Winter Meetings most of the talk surrounded Stephen Strasburg and Gerrit Cole. Now, with those two off the board the whispers that surrounded potential trades of Francisco Lindor, Kris Bryant, Corey Kluber, Mookie Betts, David Price, and even Carlos Correa among others will probably turn into a cacophony now. Some of these trades are due to financial constraints that teams have placed on themselves and in a baseball world that is flush with cash right now that is a crime.
The luxury tax threshold for 2020 will be $208 million. That’s a large chunk of change. It is also acting like a de facto salary cap. Yes, even when record contracts were doled out to Strasburg and Cole there are financial constraints and that hurts. Last year we saw teams actively tanking. This offseason the Baltimore Orioles non-tendered second baseman Jonathan Villar, one of their best offensive producers, rather than pay him. That is a problem.
When teams like the Chicago Cubs, Cleveland Indians, Houston Astros, and Boston Red Sox are talking about clearing money in a time when MLB is practically printing money that is a huge issue. There is a solution. Raise the luxury tax and reward teams for retaining their own free agents by having contracts signed by players originally drafted, or who have spent at least two years in the minor leagues with that team, count as half against the luxury tax.
Teams, and fans, should be rewarded for developing good players. However, as we have seen all too often many teams will allow a player to leave in free agency or trade him to maximize his value and return. That means a team like the Miami Marlins, who might be the poster child for financial limitations, are really only acting as an expensive farm team for the rest of Major League Baseball. The Cleveland Indians, a very good baseball team who should challenge for a playoff spot in 2020, shouldn’t be forced to think about trading Lindor, the face of their franchise, because of finances.
Major League Baseball should be rewarding teams that develop talent and keep that talent. There are only so many rich teams like the Yankees, Los Angeles Dodgers, Boston Red Sox, and Los Angeles Angels. There are only 26 roster spots (beginning in 2020) on active MLB rosters and with a luxury tax in place that acts as a de facto salary cap it forces teams to consider trading elite talent and eventually limits subsequent free agents on viable destinations.
By having homegrown players’ contracts only count as half against the luxury tax there should be enough of a reward for teams to keep their own developed talent while still dabbling in the free agent pool. The luxury tax should also be raised by $20 million to encourage the big spending teams to continue to add talent that does hit free agency.
Serious question, do fans of the Pittsburgh Pirates, Miami Marlins, Tampa Bay Rays, Oakland Athletics, Milwaukee Brewers, Cincinnati Reds, and a few other teams have long-term hope? Some have made the playoffs in recent years but where is the sustained success and hope? Fans of these teams deserve more than a couple of years of contending before another rebuild.
Major League Baseball continues to grow and set records for revenue. According to Statista, MLB took in $9.9 billion dollars. Just ten years ago revenue was $5.82 billion. The game is as healthy as it has ever been despite some in the sport and media looking for ways to speed up games and change certain aspects. Teams have money to spend in most cases. What they don’t have is excess cash to put into a luxury tax. It is time to raise the luxury tax and also reward teams, and the fans who are spending the money, for developing and keeping their own talent.