Fanatics claims it owns your kids’ likeness rights, forever

Fanatics has their latest cost-cutting scheme, and it’s trying to get perpetual likeness rights from children and potential future minor leaguers years before they go pro.

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Thanks to some excellent reporting from Britt Ghiroli at The Athletic, we now know what the latest chapter in the “everything Fanatics touches is terrible in some way” saga is. Fanatics is partnering together with Perfect Game, the “world’s largest baseball scouting service” which serves as both a showcase for amateur players and a high-level competitive environment for amateur baseball, in order to create memorabilia for these kids. Sounds innocent enough, right? Of course there’s another layer to all of this.

Perfect Game already had kids giving up the rights to their likenesses, as agents have been warning parents for a couple of years now about the practice, but, as Scott Boras told Ghiroli, “They have now gotten into profit-taking on this.” Amateurs can’t have agents, but agents can advise them, and not signing is one thing they’re being advised about now.

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On the salaries of MLB’s ‘disposable pitchers’

A day in the majors isn’t worth what happens to the salary of this new class of churned-through pitcher.

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Last week, I shared a Baseball Prospectus story written by Jarrett Seidler and Rob Mains on the rise of the “disposable pitcher.” A trend has emerged, with teams calling up a pitcher — a not-really-a-prospect kind of pitcher — on the 40-man roster up from the minors for a very temporary stay in the majors, and then designating them for assignment after they’re done with them rather than optioning them back to the minors. This allows for them to, effectively, stream a 40-man roster spot for additional call-ups like this down the road, while also allowing them to avoid exposing any genuine prospects to the majors or the need to be optioned before they feel like those players are ready for the show.

As I wrote last Friday:

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Notes: The A’s can get worse, Diamond Baseball Holdings

Why the A’s can get worse, and what is Diamond Baseball Holdings up to?

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My latest at Baseball Prospectus published on Tuesday, and it’s on how the A’s can get worse. You would think they’re already as bad as they can be, but no. Right now, at least, there’s some hope that maybe things could get better, because the move to Las Vegas could get John Fisher to become a completely different person who spends money like he’s said will happen. But that’s very unlikely. Unlikely enough that I went on the record to say that it’s not happening, while feeling pretty good about my chances of not having to eat crow about it later.

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Notes: MLBPA, Orioles ownership change, A’s boycott

A normal week, a change of hands via loophole, and John Fisher getting embarrassed. A busy Friday, really.

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As promised, my latest for Baseball Prospectus is a reaction to the news that there is a whole lot of internal grumbling going on in the Players Association — grumbling that, for a brief time, made it look as if there was going to be major leadership turnover in the form of lead negotiator and deputy director Bruce Meyer and executive director Tony Clark losing their jobs.

That time has passed, however, the worst possible damage from the storm now evaded. However, that storm is not quite finished. Luckily, as I get into, everything left is honestly just normal business: the kind of behaviors that you’d expect from a union that is nearly six times the size now as it was when it signed the 2022 MLB collective bargaining agreement, thanks to the addition of 5,400 minor leaguers as a sub-unit under the PA’s umbrella.

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Notes: J.D. Davis, MLBPA’s ‘coup’ attempt

Loopholes and growing pains.

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My latest for Baseball Prospectus published on Thursday, and it covered the J.D. Davis/Giants saga. Davis was awarded a $6.9 million salary in arbitration for the 2024 season, and then the Giants signed free agent Matt Chapman. Davis was shopped around for a trade, placed on waivers for anyone willing to take him and the $6.9 million for ’24, and then, when no one bit on either method of acquisition, San Francisco cut him.

They did so using what was described as a loophole in the collective bargaining agreement, but as I got into for BP, that’s not an entirely accurate way to explain what went down. What the Giants did was not great, in the sense they made a move they needed to make in a way that is only technically correct if you’re willing to grant them a whole lot of leeway on the spirit of that rule. Like, to the point of it being a different rule entirely: Davis was not cut because of a sudden injury or decline in his skills, but because the team signed a better player, and only after his arbitration hearing had already come and gone.

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Red Sox job postings reminder of benefits of unionizing

Expectations for what teams have to feed to minor-league players keep changing, for the better.

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Before minor leaguers unionized under the MLB Players Association umbrella, MLB teams were reluctant to spend pretty much anything on them. The pursestrings loosened in recent years, sure, with player housing and raises and such becoming part of the norm, but all of that was done in an attempt to stave off public relations issues and the “danger” of player organizing. That was more of an investment in maintaining as much of the status quo as possible than it was in the players themselves.

Things are a bit different now with the collective bargaining agreement in place, however. (Some things are the same, because this is MLB, but hey.) For instance, the Red Sox have put up some job postings of late, looking for a dietician for each of their minor-league affiliates, as well as a roving nutrition coordinator. The dieticians are likely a pseudo-requirement, as the CBA states that teams must provide “high-quality” meals both before and after games for players, but these clubs could also just order better catering. Having a dietician planning out these meals will help ensure that they actually are “high-quality” instead of merely “not garbage,” which is significant.

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US Senators ask Rob Manfred and MLB to explain this spring’s anti-labor action

MLB’s support of a wage-suppressing exemption to a state law in Florida hasn’t gone unnoticed by the federal government.

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With the unionization of minor leaguers voluntarily recognized by Major League Baseball this past spring, the federal government seemed to slow down its questioning of the league and its motives with regards to labor and potential abuse of their antitrust exemption. The questions aren’t completely gone, however, as three senators — Richards Durbin and Blumenthal, as well as John Hickenlooper — sent a letter to the league seeking clarification on why MLB would say one thing and do another.

The issue in question is the league’s support for an exemption to Florida’s state wage and hour laws. Which, if you’ll recall, is something MLB put in for back in March even as they were voluntarily recognizing the union (original reporting by Jason Garcia). These three senators want to know why MLB is pursuing laws that “appear to significantly undermine the agreement,” where the agreement is the collective bargaining agreement ratified by both the Major League Baseball Players Association and the league itself.

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Notes: MLB settles lawsuit, non-player contracts, Vegas strike

MLB settles a pesky lawsuit, changes the way contracts for non-players work, and a strike looms in Las Vegas

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Once Evan Drellich wrote up a piece on the reasons why there could end up being a settlement in the antitrust suit filed by the Tri-City ValleyCats, Salem-Keizer Volcanoes, and Norwich Sea Unicorns, it felt like settling was an inevitability. And on Thursday, that’s what we got: the trial was scheduled to begin on November 13, but now there won’t be a trial, as the lawsuit has been settled.

These three teams, all disaffiliated by MLB before the 2021 Minor League Baseball season, invoked the move as a breach of the Sherman Antitrust Act, saying that it was “a horizontal agreement between competitors that has artificially reduced and capped output in the market for MiLB teams affiliated with MLB clubs.” With the Supreme Court not yet agreeing to hear the suit, however, and chances of SCOTUS actually overturning the antitrust exemption being slim, it makes sense that the suing parties would be open to settling. MLB, too, as slim as those chances might be, don’t want to risk it or draw attention to their exemption if they don’t have to, so of course they’re going to settle. They want to disaffiliate more teams later, and the less the spotlight is on them, the quicker this can all be forgotten about without a trail of official statements left behind, the better for them.

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Notes: Rangers spending, Royals secret stadium costs, antitrust suit

The Astros spent, too, despite what their fans think, the Royals’ stadium plan is even costlier than imagined, and thoughts on what to do about the antitrust suits inching their way toward SCOTUS.

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After the Rangers defeated the Astros in the ALCS last week, there were a surprising number of fans of the latter that essentially said, “Texas only won because they spent so much money to defeat Houston.” Which, first of all, who cares if that’s true, and second, that’s also not true. The Rangers did spend a lot of money, yes, and much of it on free agency instead of on extensions to established, homegrown players, but they barely spent more than the Astros did. As I got into for Baseball Prospectus [subscription required], the only reason the two payrolls weren’t even closer than they are is because the Mets covered a big chunk of what was still owed to Justin Verlander, a midseason trade acquisition for Houston, for the 2023 season.

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Notes: Trevor May’s retirement speech, MLBPA and the antitrust exemption

Trevor May has parting words for his old boss, and the MLBPA formally supports a lawsuit challenging MLB’s antitrust exemption

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MLB relief pitcher Trevor May retired earlier this week, and he did not go out quietly. The A’s pitcher took to Twitch to deliver his retirement speech, and it was a pointed one. Something tells me this guy doesn’t like A’s owner John Fisher very much (transcription courtesy Neil deMause at Field of Schemes):

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