I decided to try and take a stab at fixing the system. Both owners and players have to be satisfied by the way the system works so I tried to come up with a system that would satisfy both sides. At this point players are underpaid during most of their 20’s (some players are literally paid league minimum after MVP years), by the time they become free agents, teams become wary of giving them long-term desks and often end up with bad contracts that drain the team’s budget when they do. If that’s not bad enough, teams regularly tank seasons while rebuilding, and players stuck with qualifying offers attached to them, are often avoided by rebuilding teams that don’t want to give up draft picks….
1. DISCOURAGE TANKING BY INSTITUTING A DRAFT LOTTERY
Pretty self-explanatory. This is a proven way to keep teams from purposely fielding terrible teams, as with this rule just missing the playoffs is no better for a rebuilding team than having the worst record in the game. This should keep teams from selling off entire teams and thus both force them to spend and boost their attendance.
2. CHANGE THE QUALIFYING OFFER SYSTEM
If you were in charge of running a team, would you give up a potential superstar for a player who you still need to give a contract to? Would you rather give up a prospect outside your top 10? What if your team just lost a key player to free agency, and the draft choice you received in return refused to sign with you? Players who receive QO’s are typically good players who teams wouldn’t mind trading for… if the price was right. A team that signs a player that rejected a qualifying offer should give up a prospect to the player’s previous team instead of losing a draft pick. The team that loses the player picks the prospect, and the signing team can protect 10 prospects from being picked. Extra draft picks clog the draft, this way is a direct trade that in my opinion encourages more teams to sign QO free agents while better compensating the team that loses the player. This in turn makes it easier for players to sign, and for the owners to sign them.
3. A TEAM MUST FIELD A $130 MILLION PAYROLL AT LEAST ONCE EVERY 5 SEASONS
This rule should probably be further worked out, but the point is to force teams to spend competitively. “Cheap” owners should be forced to spend or sell their teams, and teams that can’t field large payrolls should move to markets where they could. That’s of course easier said than done, but teams that can’t spend competitively should have no place in the Majors. Look at the amount of teams who underspend and continuously trade more expensive players while only signing players who they can acquire for low prices.
4. CHANGE HOW FREE AGENCY AND ARBITRATION WORK
This would likely be the hardest rule to implement, but would have the highest reward for both sides. Players should become arbitration eligible after their first season in the Majors. This way players who have good seasons don’t get unfairly paid league minimum salaries. Furthermore, players should be able to opt out into restricted free agency after two seasons. Their current team would be able to match any offer, and thus retain them, as the player would only be able to change teams this way if their current team refuses to match the offer. There could also be a limit set to how much a player can be offered in this scenario (for example $10 million annually). I should add that a player would be able to opt out this way after any season after his first two, meaning that he can continue being arbitration eligible and not opt out until after his third season for example. Once a player opts out and signs a free agent contract (even if he re-signs with his current team), the player would count as a free agent signing going forward. After five seasons, a player can opt out into unrestricted free agency.
As you can imagine this highly benefits the players, as they finally get paid what they’re worth for their best years. The owners need something in return so….
5. INSTITUTE A HARD SALARY CAP OF $210 MILLION
The number can be raised at CBA meetings in the future based on inflation, but this would be the one that I would recommend for now. No more luxury tax, which is basically a soft salary cap that only frustrates everyone involved, making teams wary of paying the tax, and players upset over not being signed because of it. This works in the NFL, so there’s no reason not to try it. The players get early free agency, the owners get a salary cap. I think that’s a fair trade.
Anyway, I would love to hear what you: the reader thinks about this, so please feel free to let me know what you think in the comments.