The Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool

There’s been a bit of activity among the MLB and MLBPA this week. Early in the week, the two sides actually met on back to back days and started to make some ground on crafting the next Collective Bargaining Agreement. How close are they to settling this thing? Who knows, but one thing is certain there are a handful of menu items that have either effectively been closed out or the constructs of which are neatly in place for a clean negotiation of terms. One such item is “The Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool

What Jeff is saying is that both sides seem keen on the idea that players who have yet to hit arbitration should have a shot at some extra ends. The tweet clearly shows that the negotiated amount and distribution of such extra compensation are still the object of continuing discussion. What’s not up for the discussion, seemingly, is the concept. So lets chalk one up for the lockout negotiations, we have something, that appears to help youngers (in the short term), which was an objective of the MLBPA.

My Problem…

The coverage and discussion of this topic has been downright hilarious in my opinion and I just can’t hold my tongue on it.

The Players and Owners are laughably far apart on the dollar amount

As Jeff’s tweet above noted, the Players requested $105M for this Pre-Arbitration Bonus Pool and the Owners offered $10M. That sounds far apart and I’ve seen a monstrous amount of consternation about it, which makes my lollicopter go zozozozozozo!! $10M / 30 teams = $333,333 per team. $105M / 30 teams = $3,500,000 per team. That’s really not a large difference and we all shouldn’t worry about it too much. If the sides met next Tuesday and settled on $50M, would you even be shocked?

The Owners want to use fWAR to calculate who should get the bonus, oh no!?!?!

LOL! This is my absolute favorite. A bunch of baseball fans that can’t wait to shove fWar down your fucking throat about any and every player, now don’t want fWar (or Fangraphs War) as the metric to determine which players get extra bonuses at year end. The arguments vary from fWar is unreliable, fWar is unfair to certain types of players, fWar will be gamed.

All of those arguments are true and meaningless. IF, you want to award players some extra bonus money out of a shared pool, there will be some determining factor for giving that money to those players and unfortunately that factor will not only be unfair to some players, but it will also be susceptible to being gamed. There will be unintended consequences and it will likely enrich a player you think isn’t so deserving and not collateralize a player whom you think is very valuable. And yes, those “real smart front offices” that you love, will figure out how to arbitrage them. Sorry about that.

C’mon frents, a little more imagination, a little fresher takes…you know, like this….

The BeefLoaf Solution

Maybe they didn’t go up there and tell you, you been away a long time, but I was on the SoxMachine Podcast recently. We did a Mock Trial where I played the side of the MLB Owners and Josh Nelson played the side of the MLBPA. You can watch the whole fucking thing below and believe you me, it’s worth your time. If nothing else to watch Jim Margalus play arbiter and ask us questions we aren’t always 100% prepared to answer.

My solution involves a per team bonus pool for these pre-arbitation players and allows the teams to spread out that money as they see fit. See the PowerPoint slide below.

This is REAL SIMPLE. Team wins enough to win their division, they get $10M to sprinkle to their pre-arbitration players. Team wins just enough to be a wild card, they get $5M to sprinkle to their pre-arbitration players. This would all be at a team’s discretion, so if that crafty lefty reliever came up at 29 years old and helped patch over the 7th inning for the 3 months down the stretch, he might find himself with an extra couple millie. Even if he only racked up 0.3 fWAR (hopefully that’ll even make the people with the stale ass argument above happy).

Now this concept is based on ONLY playoff teams getting the extra jackpot. In my example it was based on a 14 team playoff. The metric in this case is GAMES WON. That seems like an easy one to keep track of, right? We want competitive balance and by competitive balance we mean every team trying to win every game. I think that is accomplished here.

Kinda weird that if you model my plan out, you get $10M / team x 6 division winners = $60M and 8 wild cards at $5M / team = $40M. That’s $60M + $40M = $100M, or almost exactly what the MLBPA wanted. Let’s assume they settle at $50M for that bonus pool instead, that would leave $5M per division winning team and $2.5M per wild card team. I like that.

Oh and what about really good pre-arbitration players on teams that don’t make the playoffs? Well much like the stale ass arguments above, yea, someone still always gets screwed. That is the players on the bad teams. Sorry about that.


Look all solutions to these problems, especially salary / compensation related problems, have holes in them. You just make the best deal you can and try to out think your opponents next move. Do you like this solution? Holler at me on twitter. Do you hate this solution and think you can do better? Same. Let’s move some pocket change from the owners to the players. It’ll feel good!


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