The Atlanta Braves announced a contract extension with second baseman Ozzie Albies guaranteeing the 22-year-old third year players a total of $35 million from 2019 tp 2025. He’ll earn $1million apiece in 2019 and 2020, $3 million in 2021, $5MM in 2022, and $7MM annually from 2023 through 2025. The contract includes two club options reportedly valued at $7million each; the first one comes with a $4 million buyout. If both are exercised, Albies will earn $45 million over the next nine seasons .
Executives, players, stat-heads and scouts are all condemning the Albies extension, alternately calling it a terrible deal for Albies, unethical exploitation by the team, and selfish betrayal by the player.
Here’s NBC Sports…
Front offices deciding, seemingly simultaneously, to stop spending on free agents in their 30’s stagnated the market. Then, because of the stagnated market they created, the owners get to collectively save billions of dollars in the coming years by nudging their young players into signing extensions well before their primes, before they have established leverage with which to negotiate. Free agency is then further stagnated because these players will be reaching it at 29 and 30, rather than 26. …In these young stars and potential stars signing away their arbitration-eligible seasons, they will fail to help set higher and higher bars at each step of the arbitration process.
That last part is the crux of the outrage. The Players Union—why are sportswriters advocates for the players rather than the fans, who want stable rosters and an affordable form of entertainment?—want every player to get as much money as possible, so the salaries levels will keep ratcheting up. I heard multiple commentators on the MLB Channel on Sirius say that as a union member, Albies had an obligation not to sign away his free agent years, when he might make far more money, because his actions hurt the earning power of his fellow players.
Now there’s an illustration of how unions are anti-democratic and anti-individual freedom if I ever saw one.
There are two ways of accessing Albies’ future. One is so-called similarity scores, which places Albies position, and total career stats into a computer program that picks the most similar players in Major League history. That list, for Albies, is an undistinguished collection of journeymen, mostly with short careers.The other list comes up with very different collection of players. What players had the most similar stats after two season of play at age 22? That list contains ten excellent players, five of whom are in the Hall of Fame. This because Albies was in the majors at the tender age of 20, and such an early arrival is a strong candidate to develop into an outstanding player.
The problem is that nobody knows what lies ahead. There are many players who have a promising season as a young man, and then, for any number of reasons, never reach those heights again. Others, get better and better. What is the prudent course? Albies is four years away from being a free agent, when he can auction off his services to the top bidder. Maybe when he reaches that stage Albies will be like Manny Machado or Bryce Harper, in line for long contacts worth 300 million dollars or more. Maybe not. Waiting is a gamble, no matter what the statistical projections say. Taking a long term deal now is also a gamble, risking much greater but still speculative riches in order to have guaranteed income at a level that is, for most mortals, more than satisfactory.
This one is simple. Albies has every right to decide that the combined virtues of financial security, knowing where he will be playing for the foreseeable future and doing so with a team and in a community where he is happy and comfortable. Only he can say whether it is a good deal for him. He knows, as of this moment, at the age of 22, that he will earn at least 35 million dollars by the time he is 28, and if all goes well, will still be in a good position to earn much more after that. In what universe is that deal “bad”? Explain to me what Albies won’t be able to do that he would ever want to do because he’s “only” earning 35 million for six seasons of a half-year’s work?
The working class hero sportswriters and fellow players who are complaining want to establish a working culture based on greed. and greed only. Writes one of those sportswriters, NBC’s Craig Calcaterra,
If players in Albies’ situation are unwilling to at least attempt to get closer to arbitration or to push for better deals than Albies and his agents did here, they are going to be stuck with this stuff. Be it in arbitration, free agency or anything else, comps are what matter. While any one of these deals may make great sense for the player in question, if a bunch of guys are risk averse and take low-dollar deals like this one, guys who come to the negotiating table later don’t have much of a leg to stand on when seeking better deals. Players’ power only comes via solidarity and shared risk and they’re all running for safety now, looking out for number one. They’ll get nowhere if they keep doing that. That’s just Labor 101.
Really? My Labor 101 didn’t cover workers who earned many millions of dollars. Are CEOs told they shouldn’t accept less than their maximum salaries to work with a company they like because it won’t push other executive contracts into the stratosphere? I’ve never heard of a star actor being criticized for agreeing to do an indy film he or she cares about for a bargain rate. Why are baseball players the only rich workers who aren’t allowed to decide, “You know what? I’m rich enough. I want some security and stability.” I could argue that Albies’ deal is good for players, because it may show them that they need to consider other goals in their lives, despite what their agents and union leaders tell them.
In a free country, citizens can align what matters to them according to their priorities and needs, not the dictated edicts of some collective. Baseball, the traditional National Pastime, should stand for that principle.