Savvy or collusion? Why baseball’s free-agent market has turned ice-cold

By  | 

BACK in 1987, Andre Dawson, a star outfielder in Major League Baseball (MLB), was looking for a change of scenery. After spending a full decade with the Montreal Expos, he was at last a free agent, able to sign with any team he chose. The Expos had finished third-to-last in attendance during the previous season, and their stadium featured an artificial-turf playing surface that aggravated his balky knees. At 31 years old, Mr Dawson surely had at least a few more productive years in him. Nonetheless, not a single club save for his previous employer made him an offer. Still unsigned when spring training began that March, he sent a contract to the Chicago Cubs with a blank space where it specified his salary—inviting the team to pay him however much, or little, the franchise wished.

The Cubs wrote in a base salary of $500,000, half the amount Mr Dawson had earned the previous season. He wound up being a remarkable bargain, as he clubbed a career-high 49 home runs in his first season in Chicago and won the National League’s Most Valuable Player award. For the other 24 teams that failed to offer him a contract, it was bad enough that Mr Dawson helped the Cubs beat them on the field. Even worse was that his fruitless job search proved to be a smoking gun helping to prove that the league’s owners had colluded to reduce free agents’ salaries, in violation of MLB’s…Continue reading

Powered by WPeMatico