MIKE SILVA: Very rarely do we use the term “little guy” when it comes to pro athletes. In baseball the average player earns about $3 million dollars a year, making it difficult for the common man to relate to the issues that face a majority of ballplayers. In reality the new MLB free agency rules are one of the rare times the needs of the lower wage player are put ahead of the big name free agents.
In the past few years the hot stove has become the “spring stove” with players sometimes signing into late March. This was a result of a poor economy, but also teams using the system as leverage to drive down salaries. The big changes to the system is free agency will be granted five days after the World Series, arbitration must be offered by November 23rd, accepted by November 30th, and the non tender date moved up to December 2nd.
These dates are well before the Winter Meetings and give many players an opportunity to find a home before the holidays. In talking to an agent, teams will always pick up the phone for Cliff Lee, but will tell the fringe major leaguer to call them after the New Year. Sometimes that callback comes well after Valentine’s Day. Having the opportunity to know your status come the Winter Meetings will allow agents to garner the maximum amount of interest for their clients. In theory that should give them an opportunity at the best deals possible.
Forcing teams to make decisions early in the offseason will inevitable open roster spots for the year to year guys. These players are constantly fighting for a job, and rarely enjoy the benefits of a long term contract. With a focus on young and inexpensive players, the lower tier free agents are going to need every bit of leverage they can get. Perhaps this is a signal that MLBPA Executive Director Michael Weiner is thinking about more than just his stars. In essence those are the individuals that need the union, not Alex Rodriguez.
In the end these free agency changes may just be dates for the average fan. In reality this could be a huge opportunity for a large majority of players to have more options for employment, and increased earning potential.
HOWARD MEGDAL: For those of us who root for teams not in the playoffs, the offseason has already begun. Our October has come, and it merely serves as a conduit to next April and renewed hope. So anything that speeds up the process allowing our favorite teams to, in theory, improve, is fine by me.
I never really understood why players needed 15 days to file for free agency, anyway. It felt like a relic, the way voters go to the polls on a Tuesday since farmers needed a whole day to ride to the polling places.
Better yet, the earlier non-tender date means the only free agents the Mets will likely go after will be available before Pearl Harbor Day- a day I usually take to speculate about who will be non-tendered. Instead, I can spend that time hoping the Mets will sign some of the best bets for a rebound- Edwin Encarnacion, for instance.
But more importantly, it will give the Mets more time to reach out to Encarnacion (or others- I’m not purely devoted to Edwin Encarnacion.)
The sooner all the player movement takes place, the sooner my false spring hopes can begin to bloom once more, the sooner I can purchase a tiny t-shirt with the name and number of the player who will disappoint Mets fans next year for my daughter, and the great dance can begin anew.