I just received a press release from the Ballplayer’s Union that touches on a financial angle I’ve often thought about: revenue sharing and the obligation of teams receiving a share of payroll tax to spend it on ballplayer salaries. This obligation was part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that put revenue sharing in place, and it was the “quid pro quo” given to the Union in the negotiations.
It has seemed to me that this clause gives an inflationary push to mediocre players. The Royals, to pick on one of the more extreme examples, receive a share of the payroll tax, so they have to participate in the free agent market in order to justify the tax—even if they’re not in a position to really gain anything from the market. However, only players like Jason Kendall are apparently willing to play in Kansas City. The net effect is a better salary for the Jason Kendalls of the world.
I’ve been told that this clause hasn’t really been a factor, because it hasn’t been enforced. Until now. The Union has apparently been concerned about the teeny amount of money the Marlins spend on free agents, so they’ve used the clause to bring some leverage to the situation. Here’s what the press release says:
In response to our concerns that revenue sharing proceeds have not been used as required, the Marlins have assured the Union and the Commissioner’s Office that they plan to use such proceeds to increase player payroll annually as they move toward the opening of their new ballpark. Today’s agreement, which covers the period 2010 through 2012, calls for ongoing communication among the Marlins, the Commissioner’s Office and the Union as the Marlins proceed with that plan. It also permits, after consultation among all parties, adjustments in the Marlins’ plan to respond to unforeseen developments, and calls for arbitral intervention if disagreements arise. We greatly appreciate the willingness of the Commissioner’s Office and the Marlins to engage with us and ensure that all terms of the Basic Agreement are met.
If I’m reading this correctly, if the Union feels that the Marlins are not spending enough on player salaries, they get to take the team to binding arbitration.
The bottom line? That little clause actually does have some teeth, which partially explains some of the bizarro free agent signings you see by small-market teams.