Buster Olney is on vacation this week, so guest columnists are writing the lead of his column in his absence. So far, D-backs reliever Brad Ziegler wrote about MLBPA head Michael Weiner; Oakland reliever Sean Doolittle discussed what it's like to play for the A's; and ESPN NFL draft guru Mel Kiper Jr. discussed his love of baseball. Today, Scott Boras takes over.
In my 30-plus years representing players as a baseball attorney and observing the business of baseball, I’ve seen the game's revenues grow to record levels. Baseball is thriving and more popular than ever. But that’s not to say the business model is perfect.
In recent years, baseball has tinkered with free agency and the draft, and the result has had numerous unintended consequences. This has created headaches for players and front-office executives alike. Two major unintended consequences that need to be remedied involve the qualifying offer system and the fixed draft pool.
The qualifying offer system damages the integrity of free agency
The qualifying offer system for free agents is being skewed by the fixed pools of money in the new draft system. Each pick in the top 10 rounds is assigned a dollar value, and teams may not exceed the sum of their picks' values without being penalized. Because teams that sign top free agents lose both a draft pick and the "draft dollars" that come along with it, each "draft dollar" is worth far more than its face value, thanks to their artificial scarcity.
Suddenly, free agents who perform well enough to receive a qualifying offer find themselves in a diminished market with fewer bidders. Why? Scouting directors and GMs don’t want to see their draft budgets gutted. The acquisition of young, affordable, controllable talent is too important.
The proof is clear based on how the market worked last year.