Sunday Notes: My Friend Sam Has an Interesting CBT/Bird Rights Idea

Last Sunday’s column included my opining that Joey Votto should retire rather than sign with a team other than the Cincinnati Reds, thus making him a one-franchise player. My friend Sam — a bona fide baseball nerd — read the column and proceeded to share an interesting thought when I ran into him at the coffee shop we both frequent. Being of the belief that players sticking with one team is a good thing — I think most fans would concur — Sam wonders if tweaking the Competitive Balance Tax in a manner that would incentivize teams’ ability to re-sign their free agents might be possible. For instance, if player X were to sign a one-year $20M contract with a new team, the entire amount would factor into the team’s payroll. Conversely, if Player X re-signed with his old team, a lesser amount ($10M?) would count toward it.

Sam didn’t mention Mookie Betts, but he may well have had him in mind. With their superstar outfielder one year away from free agency, and the CBT an acknowledged factor, the Red Sox traded Betts, along with David Price, to the Dodgers, thereby slashing over $40M from their forthcoming 2020 payroll. The deal put them a reported $18M below the threshold. Whether or not Betts would have opted to re-sign with Boston is another question, but the CBT clearly played a role in his departure.

Ben Clemens brought up basketball’s “Bird Rights” as a parallel when I asked for his thoughts on Sam’s idea. As my colleague pointed out, NBA teams get to exempt hometown stars from the salary cap in some situations. Of course, MLB doesn’t have a ceiling. Nor does it have a floor, which further complicates the issue.

There are admittedly imperfections in Sam’s idea. Most notably, teams like the Red Sox whose payrolls are near the luxury tax threshold would be most directly impacted. Giving them an opportunity to re-sign an attractive free agent and still remain under the threshold would disadvantage smaller market — i.e. lower-payroll — clubs who might otherwise ink him to a contract. That said, how often would a smaller-market club, as opposed to a deeper-pocketed one, be signing said player? Probably not too often.

Finding a way to better enable smaller-market/lower payroll teams to retain (ditto obtain) players is itself a huge challenge, largely because we’re typically talking about billionaire owners who prioritize pocketing money over spending it. (That’s not to suggest the Dodgers don’t have significantly more resources than, say, the Guardians or Pirates, but a billionaire is a billionaire.) What baseball really needs is the aforementioned salary floor. Might that keep more players with one team longer, as opposed to their essentially being waved goodbye because Scrooge McOwner can’t “afford” them? Regardless, the CBT only does so much, and it is far from perfect. Baseball’s entire economic system is far from perfect.

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RANDOM HITTER-PITCHER MATCHUPS

Matt Holliday went 5 for 12 against Ervin Santana.

Juan Gonzalez went 6 for 7 against Johan Santana.

Will Clark went 8 for 8 against Julio Santana.

Danny Santana went 9 for 14 against Gerrit Cole.

F.P. Santangelo went 9 for 11 against Frank Castillo.

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The Dodgers opened their coffers to the tune of a reported $1.2 billion in recent weeks, signing Shohei Ohtani and Yoshinobu Yamamato, and also trading for and extending Tyler Glasnow. With those expensive expenditures in mind, I ran a Twitter poll on Friday asking the degree to which you [the person voting] will root for the Dodgers in 2024 relative to previous seasons. The three options were increased, decreased, and no different.

The results suggested that neutral fans aren’t prone to root for… well, MLB’s equivalent of U.S. Steel, be it located in New York, Los Angeles, or wherever. Only 18.5% of voters opted for “increased,” while 34.3% went for “decreased” and 47.2% settled on “no different.” With the caveat that the top choice was itself neutral, potential bandwagon jumpers were outpaced by naysayers nearly two to one.

It was once said that rooting for the Yankees was like rooting for U.S. Steel, and that decades-old quote seems appropriate today — albeit with an impeccable timing twist. In the very same week that the Dodgers signed the second of their two Japanese imports to a record-setting deal, Nippon Steel reached an agreement to acquire U.S. Steel.

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A quiz:

Which position (right field, center field, and left field counted separately) has accounted for the most MVP awards?

The answer can be found below.

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NEWS NOTES

C.J. Nitkowski is leaving the Texas Rangers’ broadcast team and will be serving as the primary analyst in the Atlanta Braves television booth beginning next season. The former big-league left-hander has been in his Rangers role since 2017.

The Chicago Cubs have hired Matt Hinkley as their Arizona-complex pitching coordinator. Hinkley has spent the past two years as a pitching coordinator at Cressey Sports Performance.

The Arizona Diamondbacks have hired Kyle Driscoll as their minor league pitching coordinator. A Former pitching coordinator at Cressey Sports Performance, Driscoll was a coach with the New York Mets Triple-A affiliate last season.

Larry Miggins, an outfielder who appeared in one game for the St. Louis Cardinals in 1948, and 42 more in 1952, died earlier this month at age 98. The Bronx native had two big-league home runs, one each against Preacher Roe and Warren Spahn.

Ryan Minor, an infielder who played for the Baltimore Orioles from 1998-2000, and for the Montreal Expos in 2001, lost his life to cancer this week at age 49. The Canton, Ohio native replaced Cal Ripken Jr. in the Orioles lineup on September 20, 1998, ending the Iron Man’s record 2,632 consecutive-games-played streak.

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The answer to the quiz is first base, with a total of 37 MVP seasons. Right fielders are second, with 30 MVP seasons. (Hat tip to MLB.com’s Thomas Harrigan, whose November article on the subject was the first that came up when I did in search after coming up with the quiz question.)

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Left on the cutting-room floor from my quote-driven feature that ran here at FanGraphs on Wednesday was Craig Breslow’s response to a question about the pitching-development program he’s instituting in Boston. I asked the club’s new Chief Baseball Officer if vertical approach angle and deception are being baked into their assessment process.

“Vertical approach angle is something we can very comfortably measure,” replied Breslow. “Deception is a little bit more nuanced, but technology is emerging that allows us to account for what we think might contribute to deception [and] to be able to model that and create some quantitative contribution of deception. Intuitively, one way to approach that is, ‘Who are the pitchers who consistently outperform expected outcomes, or underperform expected outcomes?’ You try to drill down into where that’s coming from.”

A few of Boston’s more-promising pitching prospects possess plus stuff, but are lacking in command. The Athletic’s Jen McCaffrey followed up my question by asking how that all too common shortcoming can be addressed .

“It’s difficult to articulate how you improve command in the same way we can talk out improving velocity or pitch shape,” said Breslow. “I think command is something that takes more time; it’s something that compounds over time. But from a physical perspective, it’s providing immediate feedback on whether you accomplished a task, whether that’s throwing to a target or to strings. There are also mechanical markers that we’ve identified that are strongly correlated to command, and ensuring that we hit those benchmarks. And then, I think there is a mental component, a willingness to trust and to challenge the strike zone with your stuff.”

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My November 22, 2015 Sunday Notes column included the following:

Yuki Matsui won’t be coming stateside any time soon. The left-hander turned 20 years old three weeks ago and he’s only pitched in the Japanese Pacific League for two years. Even so, he is a name worth knowing.

Three more paragraphs followed those lines, the last of which cited a scout’s opinion that Matsui would likely be a fourth-round pick were he eligible for the amateur draft.

Eight years later, the now-28-year-old reliever is now a San Diego Padre, having signed a five-year deal with the Friars yesterday. He’ll come to MLB with an impressive résumé. In 10 seasons with NPB’s Tohoku Rakuten Golden Eagles, Matsui logged 236 saves and allowed just 436 hits while fanning 860 batters in 659-and-two-thirds innings. A name worth knowing indeed.

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FOREIGN AFFAIRS

Takahisa Hayakawa is 4-0 with a 1.00 ERA and 46 strikeouts in 27 innings for the Australian Baseball League’s Perth Heat, The 25-year-old left-hander went 6-7 with a 3.44 ERA for Rakuten this past season.

Yuhi Sako allowed two hits and one run over seven innings on Wednesday as the Australian Baseball League’s Canberra Cavalry crushed the Sydney Blue Sox by a count of 10-1. The 24-year-old native of Japan pitched for the independent Frontier League’s New Jersey Jackals this summer.

Miguel Sanó is slashing .225/.346/.405 with two home runs in 107 plate appearances for the Dominican Winter League’s Estrellas Orientales. The 30-year-old corner infielder last played professionally with the Minnesota Twins in 2022.

Max Murphy is slashing.279/.380/.570 with 12 home runs in 208 plate appearances for the Mexican Pacific Winter League’s Mayos de Navojoa. A 31-year-old outfielder who played in the Minnesota Twins and Arizona Diamondbacks systems from 2014-2019, the Robbinsdale, MN native has spent the last three summers with the American Association’s Winnipeg Goldeyes.

Jeff Kinley is 5-0 with a 2.70 ERA over 53-and-a-third innings for the Mexican Pacific Winter League’s Algodoneros de Guasave. A 31-year-old southpaw from Saginaw, Michigan who pitched in the Miami Marlins system from 2015-2019, Kinley last played stateside with the Atlantic Association’s Chicago Dogs in 2022.

Adael Amador — the top prospect in the Colorado Rockies system — is slashing .243/.372/.300 in 86 plate appearances for the Puerto Rican Winter League’s RA12. The 20-year-old shortstop spent most of this season with High-A Spokane.

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Earlier this month, The Boston Globe’s Matt Porter wrote about New England-based sports teams that almost relocated to other cities — as well as a few that actually did. His mention of the Boston Braves, who moved to Milwaukee prior to the 1954 season, included a fact I was aware of but had never really put much thought into: Henry Aaron debuted that year, and had he done so in Boston, both he and Ted Williams would have played in the same city at the same time.

Porter didn’t present this specific scenario in his column, but I can’t help but wondering what might have happened had the relocation — driven by economic factors which included attendance issues — not happened when it did. The Braves were coming off a pair of losing seasons when they departed Boston, but promptly won 92 games after arriving in Milwaukee. Moreover, by the end of the decade they’d played in two World Series, winning one of them. The roster on the championship club included not only Aaron, but also fellow Hall of Famers Eddie Mathews, Warren Spahn, and Red Schoendienst, as well as eight-time All-Star Del Crandall.

As for Boston’s other team, the Red Sox were routinely middle of the pack during this period — despite the presence of The Splendid Splinter — and never seriously contended at a time when the New York Yankees were dominating the American League. With that in mind, suppose a young superstar like Aaron had been leading a high-quality, Boston-based National League squad while the Red Sox were treading water in the junior circuit? Might the Braves still be in Boston and the Red Sox elsewhere? Or could the city have continued to support two teams? If so, for how long? We’ll never know.

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LINKS YOU’LL LIKE

At The International Examiner, Emily Hawks talked to Kerry Yo Nakagawa — the founder of the Nisei Baseball Project — about the little known history of Japanese baseball.

At Northwest Baseball History, Amanda Lane Cumming presented us with a tribute to the extra-inning games of yore, including a 20-inning affair between the Mariners and Red Sox in 1981 that helped forge her fandom.

DRay Bay’s Elizabeth Storm wrote about Tyler Glasnow’s departure from Tampa Bay.

Royals Review’s Preston Farr feels that Kansas City’s 2024 offense could be better than you think.

Hall of Fame voter Bill Ballou put checkmarks next to just two names — Adrian Beltré’s wasn’t one of them — on this year’s ballot. He explained his reasoning at The Worcester (MA) Telegram & Gazette.

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RANDOM FACTS AND STATS

San Diego Padres batters had 1,316 hits and 1,311 strikeouts this past season. Minnesota Twins batters had 1,336 hits and 1,654 strikeouts.

Minnesota Twins pitchers had 1,560 strikeouts and allowed 1,294 hits. Colorado Rockies pitchers had 1,129 strikeouts and allowed 1,599 hits.

Chase Utley had 1,885 hits, 3,189 total bases, and 61.6 fWAR.
Robin Ventura had 1,885 hits, 3,133 total bases, and 56.7 fWAR.

Ken Griffey Jr. had 1,662 runs scored and 1,836 RBIs.
Rafael Palmeiro had 1,663 runs scored and 1,835 RBIs.

Vinny Castilla batted .304 with 40 home runs, 113 RBIs, and a .548 slugging percentage in 1996. He batted .304 with 40 home runs, 113 RBIs, and a .547 slugging percentage in 1997.

Robin Yount had 21 home runs, 103 RBIs, 19 stolen bases, nine triples, and nine GIDPs in each of the 1987 and 1989 seasons.

The New York Yankees signed David Wells to a free-agent contract on today’s date in 1996. The well-traveled southpaw — he played for nine different teams — went 34-14 over his initial two years in pinstripes. Wells went on to have a second two-year stint with the Yankees and went an identical 34-14 from 2002-2003.

The Detroit Tigers traded Happy Townsend to the Cleveland Naps in exchange for fellow right-hander Red Donahue on today’s date in 1905. Donahue proceeded to go 13-14 in 1906, while Townsend went 3-7 in what was the last of his six big-league seasons. A native of Townsend, Delaware, “Happy” had gone 5-26 two years early pitching for a Washington Senators squad that finished 38-113 with five ties. Two of the tie games were extra-inning affairs against the Tigers in which neither team scored. Townsend tossed 11 scoreless frames in one of them.

Players born on today’s date include Kirt Ojala, who pitched in 56 games for the Florida Marlins from 1997-1999. A left-handed knuckleballer, the Kalamazoo, Michigan native finished his MLB career 3-10 with a 4.71 ERA.

Also born on today’s date was Keith Luuloa, an infielder whose MLB career comprised six games with the Anaheim Angels in 2000. The Honolulu native went 3-for-4 in his final game and had six hits in 18 at-bats in all.





David Laurila grew up in Michigan's Upper Peninsula and now writes about baseball from his home in Cambridge, Mass. He authored the Prospectus Q&A series at Baseball Prospectus from December 2006-May 2011 before being claimed off waivers by FanGraphs. He can be followed on Twitter @DavidLaurilaQA.

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dangledangle
3 months ago

The best way to get small market teams to compete for players is to open their baseball operations books using the same accounting standards for each team. Atlanta is the only team that needs to disclose their finances. This allows most teams to claim poverty without anything to back it up.

CC AFCmember
3 months ago
Reply to  dangledangle

Sounds awesome, but good luck trying to get the owners to agree to do that

sadtrombonemember
3 months ago
Reply to  dangledangle

I’m going to throw a wrench in your idea. There are a large set of teams that have poisoned their relationship with the fans through crying poverty, which then hurts their revenues. The Athletics, Pirates, Guardians, Marlins, Reds, and (maybe) the Rays are in this position. Fans don’t like whiners. If those teams open the books, and I think it’s likely that we’re going to see that they can’t spend that much more than they really are. But it’s still kind of their fault.

Interestingly, the reverse isn’t necessarily true. There are models for teams that punch way above their market size / tv contracts in fan engagement like the Twins, Brewers, and (especially) the Cardinals because they aren’t out there trying to work the refs. But aside from the Cardinals, who took something like 3 generations to get to this point, they haven’t seen the same upside as the A’s / Pirates / Guardians / Marlins have seen downsides. (You could also theoretically put the Padres in this latter category but since they spent so much money they nearly ran out of it, it’s probably a better reflection of the diminishing returns to big contracts for driving revenues)

Last edited 3 months ago by sadtrombone
fjtorres
3 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

Dolan wiped out a decade of Jacobs good will with one statement: that the team’s following year budget would not grow and in the future only depend on attendance revenues. The statement came *after* season ticket sales were completed and before a losing season.

A friend of mine fronted a group that collectively bought four season tickets and then divided the dates equally for 7 years. That was the end of that.

Even after 2016’s run they’ve never come close to selling out the season despite reducing park capacity to 34,850 from 42,865.

Dolan’s tight fists aren’t the only (or even main) reason for the team’s budget limitations but he hasn’t helped at all.

dangledangle
3 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

But the issue is that these teams are running payrolls below what each team receives from MLB central funds and revenue sharing. Each team receives over a hundred million before local revenue. Oakland for example is the lowest ranked team in terms of revenue at $212m according to this source. https://www.statista.com/statistics/193645/revenue-of-major-league-baseball-teams-in-2010/

They had a total payroll of 49m to 66m depending on how you measure it. Obviously there are costs in addition to payroll.

https://www.spotrac.com/mlb/oakland-athletics/payroll/2022/

All of this should come with an asterisk because there isn’t a standardized accounting framework. But it’s clear that their revenue could support a larger payroll even without an attendance bump.

sadtrombonemember
3 months ago
Reply to  dangledangle

That is definitely not correct. Someone is taking raw numbers without taking into account how much they are paying in—it’s complicated. The Captain’s Blog (the author is a commenter here occasionally) has the Rays and Marlins getting the largest share at about $55M. The A’s only get about $10M. Everyone else is somewhere in between.

Mattmember
3 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

If you don’t think the Brewers are whiners you are unfamiliar with their production of the second biggest lake in Wisconsin with his stadium hostage situation. He got hundreds of.millions approved and they will now trade Burnes, Adames, and if he could find a taker one thinks Yelich. He is so poor he bought a foreign soccer team.

hofisajoke
3 months ago
Reply to  sadtrombone

A’s have had more really good teams that many franchises, in the last 20 years, despite their smaller fan base.

Would the A’s have been better for longer, if they’d signed more of their stars to long term contracts?

maybe, but the Eric Chavez deal didn’t work out.
Miguel Tejada was only a star for 3 seasons after leaving.
mulder was basically done a year after being traded.
zito wasn’t so good in SF.

Tim Hudson maintained value.
Donaldson did, too.

Obviously recent trades haven’t worked out well for oakland (yet) and my guess is that Atlanta will be happy with their 1B and Catcher for a while.

I don’t doubt they have a smaller margin of error when making decisions on who to sign long term or trade away, compared to most franchises.

If the website I just pulled up is accurate, A’s have been around 200 million in revenue lately. dodgers are closer to 600 million.

according to a different site teams spend more on payroll than other expenses (while making a net 1.2 billion income).

“Of that expense, $4.6 billion went to paying player salaries, and $4.1 billion went to “other” expenses — which include front office and staff payrolls, minor league costs, stadium expenses and the cost of operating MLB’s central office.”

based on that, a’s should be able to maintain a payroll of $100+ million (with the dodgers being able to triple that payroll).

dangledangle
3 months ago
Reply to  hofisajoke

Yes and this gets to my point that because we do not know for sure there isn’t a definitive answer and it’s speculation. Owners essentially can say whatever they want or not say anything except to their GM.

Resigning players is one thing but being able to add where needed to a competitive team is where the most marginal gain can be captured. The O’s are a perfect example if they have a great young core, but they have an obvious hole in their rotation that they can’t fill with in house options. Being able to add a couple of middle of the rotation starters would make a huge difference for them in the upcoming season.

JohnHavok
3 months ago
Reply to  dangledangle

You’re forgetting the other team in MLB that is also publicly owned, the Blue Jays

Roger McDowell Hot Foot
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnHavok

Publicly traded.

dangledangle
3 months ago
Reply to  JohnHavok

Fair