It’s a well-known fact in the baseball world, that teams manipulate the service time of their players in order to receive an extra year of control. Here is the explanation for how service time works and here is the explanation for how it can and is being manipulated. Naturally this is unfair to the players and keeps the fans from seeing good players in the Majors. So how do we fix it? The owners won’t give this loophole up without something in return, and the players will not be eager to give anything up. I have an idea of how they can fix this situation.

On average, players spend approximately 4 years in the Minors. Add those 4 years to the 6 that a player typically plays in the Majors before free agency, and the solution becomes pretty clear. A team controls a player for 10 years after signing him after the draft. How much of that time the player spends in the Minors or Majors is irrelevant, what matters is that after 10 years he’s eligible for free agency. This clock starts once he is first eligible to play post-draft. This way team control manipulation is impossible and in fact teams are encouraged to promote players sooner. This also allows late bloomers to hit free agency when they can still receive a good free agent contract.

This is a great solution for the players, but what about the owners? Well first of all, if a player is good enough to get promoted earlier than those 4 years, the team actually receives extra years of control. The preceding however is a rare occasion, which is why the owners would need more. The idea for the new system for the players is fair for the players, so it would be fair to do something fair for the owners in return.

Is paying Jacoby Ellsbury for not playing entire seasons fair to the New York Yankees? How about when the New York Mets had to pay David Wright when he couldn’t even really play anymore? Players have opt-out clauses, so why can’t teams? If a player misses significant time with injury, a team should be allowed to void the player’s contract? How much time? I would say if the player misses 162 games over the course of the contract due to injury. The obvious problem is so-called “phantom injuries”. “Injuries” that are really excuses to put struggling players on the IL. This can be fixed by making sure that independent doctors check out the players and that their rulings are used when a team attempts to void a contract.

I think that this is a good solution to the manipulated team control problem. Players get called up when they’re ready and aren’t kept from earning free agent contracts. Late bloomers are also no longer punished for being late bloomers. In return for agreeing to this, owners get to get out of bad contracts and feel more confident in giving out free agent contracts, which in turn also benefits the players.


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