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Brian Walton's news and commentary on the St. Louis Cardinals (TM) and their minor league system

Holliday wants free agent compensation rules changed

Anyone who listens to MLB Network Radio on Sirius XM regularly knows the commentators, particularly former Reds and Nationals GM Jim Bowden, have long been tub-thumping over the issue of compensation-eligible free agents being “restricted” because they are tied to the loss of a draft pick when they sign with another organization.

St. Louis Cardinals outfielder Matt Holliday was a guest on MLB Network Radio on Tuesday. Holliday’s audio interview segment can be found here, but not surprisingly, he is against the current free agent compensation rules and wants them changed.

In doing so, Holliday sounds a lot like his agent, Scott Boras.

“I think without a doubt it is unfair to the players that are attached (to compensation), particularly with the recent influx of players getting to the major leagues so fast – getting out of college and having an impact,” Holliday said.

“Teams are valuing these first- and second-round picks (more) than I think they did maybe five to ten years ago,” he continued. “When you’ve got guys like Michael Wacha and Buster Posey and these college players that are really good in college get drafted and two years later, they are having an impact on the World Series.”

Holliday, who was a free agent following the 2009 season, went on to explain that teams are not willing to sign a potential “15 game winner” when they have to forfeit a first-round draft pick in doing so. He wants no special strings attached to certain players compared to others in free agency.

“I think it is not fair,” he said. “Like you (Bowden) said, it is either free agency or it is not.”

Holliday calls it, “Free agency with an asterisk by it.”

The outfielder went on to explain more about why he feels that way.

“It is not really a free agent because every team is not going to be willing to give up that draft pick,” Holliday said. “So the number of teams you can sign with are limited. So you are not a free agent.”

Holliday called attention to what he feels is the inequity of players traded in-season not being attached to compensation while some others not traded are. (He also did not acknowledge that traded players are ineligible for the one-year qualifying offer.)

“You’ve got players like you said that are traded in the middle of the season and all of the sudden, that (compensation) goes away,” Holliday noted. “And now they are more coveted than a guy who is maybe slightly better than him because he is not attached to a draft pick. I just don’t think that is fair. I think it should be addressed.”

Holliday does accept that former teams should be compensated for the loss of a “big time” free agent as long as it does not cost the new team a draft pick.

Regarding the current compensation rules, his bottom line was very clear.

“I think it was a bad decision and it needs to be amended as soon as possible and get that taken off,” Holliday urged.

My take: I find it most interesting that many people seem to have selective memories on the matter. This is a point in time issue as much or more as it is a financial one.

The majority of the compensation-eligible free agents are signed in a timely manner. The laggards seem to be those at the low end of the offered population in terms of value.

Just as Ervin Santana and Ubaldo Jimenez – examples cited by Bowden – are still looking for homes now, so were Kyle Lohse and Michael Bourn at this time last winter. We heard the exact same complaints about the system then.

Days later, Lohse and Bourn ended up with competitive, multi-year contracts. Lohse received a three-year, $33-34 million commitment from Milwaukee in March. From Cleveland in mid-February, Bourn got a four-year, $48 million deal (or five years, $60 million if 2016 plate appearance vesting kicks in). Lohse was 34; Bourn 30 years of age at the time. Both are Boras clients.

Granted, they were not signed as early as other free agents who also turned down their former team’s one-year qualifying offer of over $13 million. Still, these players made their decision, followed the process (which was collectively agreed to by players and owners a lot more recently than five or ten years ago) and found good long-term homes.

On this issue as well as steroids, Holliday has shown a willingness to speak out. However, in my opinion, he will find a lot more empathy for his concerns on any of these matters by sitting down with his own union leadership than he will complaining to the general public.

I wish all the best to the Players’ Association if they want to pursue amending free agency (or any other matter) with the owners as part of their next Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. In the meantime, they should accept the rules they helped put in place.

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29 Responses to “Holliday wants free agent compensation rules changed”

  1. crdswmn says:

    I heard the interview live.

    This is why I wanted to know who the Cardinals’ union rep was. This is the second time MLBN radio has called upon Holliday to address issues that concern the MLBPA. It seems to me the appropriate person to ask about this is the union rep. Now, if Holliday is the union rep, okay. If not, why isn’t the union rep addressing these issues? It makes me wonder.

    I don’t know how I feel about the draft compensation issue. I do find it rather annoying that we are going into ST with FA’s still hanging out there. I like to know who is playing where. But it is not an issue I feel strongly about one way or another.

    • blingboy says:

      Isn’t it a competitive balance thing? Help the small market teams that can’t offer big long term deals and penalize the big market teams that can?

    • Brian Walton says:

      crdswmn, are you equally annoyed that say, Bronson Arroyo or A.J. Burnett, are still unsigned as you are about Ubaldo or Ervin? If so, then maybe having a draft pick attached isn’t the primary issue at all. (Arroyo and Burnett were not among the 13 free agents given qualifying offers this winter.) Maybe these players’ contract expectations are simply out of alignment with their market value.

      That relates well to one of Holliday’s points. For every (inexpensive) Michael Wacha that emerges, a(n expensive) Jake Westbrook becomes unemployed. Only 750 jobs in a zero sum game.

      • crdswmn says:

        I’m not annoyed about Burnett, because I think it is his own fault he is unsigned, he waited too damn long to make up his mind to pitch.

        As for Arroyo, I think you are right that his contract expectations are holding him back, as well as his age (which also factors into expectations. I am only mildly annoyed about him.

        I am more annoyed about Santana and Jimenez, and to a lesser extent Nelson Cruz. I have to think the draft compensation is the major factor in why they are unsigned (there are some other factors with Cruz).

        Drew and Morales’ problem is Scott Boras. Boras needs to shut his mouth about draft compensation and work more on not being a greedy bastard.

        Like I said, it is not an issue I feel strongly about.

      • blingboy says:

        Whether Jake would be expensive is up to him, isn’t it?

  2. blingboy says:

    What is reportedly going to happen in this years July 2 is an example of ineffective penalties. There are pools assigned to the teams for the purpose of giving the small teams a shot at signing top prospects, but the penalties are such that the Yankees are reportedly going to ignore it altogether and just buy up all the talent.

    Contrary to what Holliday suggests, what would be the result if every FA who declined a QO would cause a lost pick by the team that signed him? Perhaps it could be scaled as far as what round pick was lost, with lesser performers linked to loss of later round.

  3. JumboShrimp says:

    Holliday is acting as a spokesman for Boras. Let us players get even richer and to heck with fans for small market teams.
    Matt should look around for a genuinely worthy cause to support.

    • Nutlaw says:

      Agreed. Sorry if I don’t feel bad for someone who didn’t feel that getting paid $13M (or whatever the exact number is) for one year’s worth of playing a game isn’t enough for them! :)

    • crdswmn says:

      He supports plenty of worthy causes, he just doesn’t advertise them. And he is entitled to his opinion and to express it in the public sphere. There are much lesser opinions I wish I didn’t have to listen to.

  4. CariocaCardinal says:

    I have just one question for Mr, Holiday – what is the union willing to give up in return for changing this rule?

  5. WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

    I wonder what you’re missing here????????????? Where was the big hyped SS market? Who set that in motion?……………….. If somebody doesn’t put 30m in Fielders pocket, we have Andrus and they have Miller and Adams probably,,,,,,,,,,,,what’s the market for Peralta?

    Drew goes to Boston at their price, just like Lohse was headed for MM at their price…….. the Mets are a messy independent, just hyping their “interests”.

    One other issue……….Wacha surprised many…….including himself…….the idea that he was “unveiled” as the secret weapon is a joke……he has plenty of work to do….. I like the kid though.

    DeWitt led the Market with JP because he needed that contract in place…….. Your tone in this Brian is a joke………..and very transparent……… if Fox along with Selig wasn’t doing all the string pulling in these matters, it wouldn’t end up this way…….. it’s in no one best interest to suggest a company that is pouring all this “special” money into baseball, has some preferences……..

    • Brian Walton says:

      Thank God you’ve straightened me out – if I only knew what you were talking about.

      • crdswmn says:

        It isn’t about baseball.

      • WestCoastbirdWatcher says:

        If Lohse signs a QO for 13.2………..he has no protections……..SL trades that contract for a prospect and uses its PR apparatus to flame him until they do…….. no one has excepted an offer yet………..if they had protections….they might……the trap has now been sprung…….. add a simple pillow contract protection, and it might get used………

        Freddy Freeman 135?????? the Choo contract??????????Ellsbury????? this isn’t about baseball…..its about modern money laundering………………….. JP Morgan pays 2.6 Billion penalty for laundering Madoff……through just “a few” accounts………. Wilpons loose plenty via there investment fund………but their special Mets Partners group makes a nifty profit of 78 million???????? And they had 42 accounts……..wonder what those accounts were ????????? guess……….. anyone talking about that?

        The rules have no other function than to create “opportunities” to control the market.

        • blingboy says:

          It seems clear that it was not the owners hope that players would accept QOs. If it had been, they would be interested in talking about modifying that part of the CBA, which they are not.

          It seems like the problem lies in the meathod used to identify which players will cost a draft pick to the new team. Some are clearly worth it, and others not. Alternatively, the problem could be stated as being flawed in that the penalty to the new team is the same whether they sign one of the top guys or one of the fringe guys within the group tagged. Some way of applying a later round draft pick to the fringe guys seems like a reasonable idea. I would accept that the current system is not fair to the players who get tagged but are not worth it.

          • Brian Walton says:

            Free agent types used to be identified by their stats in recent years. There were originally four tiers, later reduced to three.

            That was thrown out in favor of a simpler method. The free agent is either viewed as being worth $14.1 million to his former team in the coming year or he is not. (The actual amount goes up annually with MLB’s top salaries.) So being “fringe” is in that context – being at the lower end of the group of FAs worth more than $14.1 million.

            No matter where one draws a line, there will be players near the edge, though by raising the qualifying offer amount, it should shrink the population. As a point of reference, there were only 13 guys this year across MLB even with today’s rules.

            Seems like you may want to go back to some method of tiering.

            FWIW, it sounded like Holliday’s issue is less with which free agents were selected and more with the draft pick forfeited by the new team. He seemed to be against the latter across the board.

            • blingboy says:

              Yes, he argued that a FA isn’t a FA if his salary is not determined solely by free market forces. True, but it does not consider the impact that would have on competitive balance, and what that could mean to the total pool of money availible to be paid out in salaries. The ‘get all we can right now, without regard to the future’ mentality has not served other unions well, IMO.

              • crdswmn says:

                That kind of mentality is not restricted to unions. American corporations are the biggest consumers of this way of doing business, never thinking beyond the next quarterly report. It is why developing economies overseas are kicking America’s keester.

                Like I said, I ambivalent about this whole draft compensation issue. I can see both sides of it.

  6. Brian Walton says:

    FOX Sports’ Jon Morosi includes a Boras quote along with MLB’s reported position on the matter at the end of this article. Pretty much what you would guess the reactions to be.

  7. [...] have been thinking about Holliday since his Tuesday remarks on SiriusXM Radio. The outfielder spoke out in favor of abolishing draft pick compensation for [...]

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