Todd Frazier And MLB Collusion Allegations
With many of the upper echelon free agents yet to sign, we have seen a war of words begin to emerge with players and agents on one side and owners on the other.
Brodie Van Wagenen of CAA notes MLB owners behavior has “changed dramatically,” and their behavior “appears coordinated.
Joshua Kusnick, a self-proclaimed boutique agent, asserted it feels “an external force has held things up.” After summing is his opinion, he invoked the legal doctrine of res ipsa loquitor, which in the given context, can be inferred to mean if it looks like collusion, it’s collusion.
MLBPA President Tony Clarkissued a statement, which in part, said, “This year a significant number of teams are involved in a race to the bottom. This conduct is a fundamental breach of the trust between a team and its fans and threatens the very integrity of our game.”
At this point, MLB was compelled to respond, and unsurprisingly, they put the blame on the players. In fact, they noted players have “substantial offers” that reach nine figures. To that end, MLB blames agents for failing to properly advise their clients as to what their real value is.
Right on cue, Scott Boras chimed in noting teams sharing information on offers given to free agents is a violation of the CBA. As is typical with Boras, he dropped a bombshell:
boras continued: "I an also curious how a public statement communicated to all teams about offers on the table and players demanding too much money from a central league office … is any different from the infamous "information bank" in the 1980s."
— Jon Heyman (@JonHeyman) February 7, 2018
Certainly, this has been an offseason unlike any we’ve seen in 30 years, and as a result the question of what exactly is happening needs to be investigated.
Specifically, Mets signing Todd Frazier merits consideration.
In his final arbitration year, Frazier made $12 million. After a season where he posted a 3.4 WAR, the 31 year old took a pay cut signing a two year $17 million ($8.5 million AAV) deal.
Now, arbitration and free agency are completely different animals. The real question is whether Frazier received his true fair market value on the free agent market. One way to do that is to gauge the other multi-year deals given to the top free agent third baseman available on the market:
|Justin Turner||Luis Valbuena|
|2016 WAR||5.0||2016 WAR||2.6|
|Cost/WAR (AAV)||$3.2M||Cost/WAR (AAV)||$2.8M|
|Pablo Sandoval||Chase Headley|
|2014 WAR||3.4||2014 WAR||3.5|
|Cost/WAR (AAV)||$5.6M||Cost/WAR (AAV)||$4.1M|
What is interesting to see here is the annual cost paid per WAR on a multi-year deal has decreased on a continual basis. Sandoval, who was fresh off another great World Series performance, received $5.6 million per WAR on his five year contract. Fast-forward a few years, and Turner, who was coming off a terrific postseason run himself only received $3.2 million per WAR on his multi-year deal.
Yes, there were some mitigating factors to consider. By and large, the Sandoval and Headley contracts have been deemed to have been terrible deals, and as a result, we have seen both players wind back up with the teams they made their Major League debuts.
Some will also point out how Turner wanted to stay home with the Dodgers. Naturally, limiting his market also would serve to limit the amount of money he could make on the free agent market. However, it is still a stark drop from $5.6 million per WAR to $3.2 million. That goes double when you consider Turner was coming off the much better season.
If you want to note Sandoval, despite his “bad body” was younger, then look at Headley, who was the same age as Turner when he entered the free agent market. Headley’s $4.1 million per WAR was a better deal than Turner’s even if Turner did receive $12 million more in his deal.
Looking at Frazier, he is being paid just $2.5 million per his 2017 WAR. That’s less than half of what Sandoval was paid in 2015, which is interesting considering both players amassed a 3.4 WAR in their free agency walk year.
Depending on your point of view, you could twist these numbers to prove either collusion or a correction in the market.
Personally, I find it a struggle to believe this is every team ultimately becoming smarter. A productive player like Frazier took a pay cut and received a deal less valuable than the ones signed just three years ago. This happened despite MLB revenues continuing to increase and the owners receiving a $50 million payout for the sale of BAMTech.
It may not be collusion, but something strange is certainly happening in baseball right now.