Reminders of the power imbalance between MLB’s teams, prospects

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Kumar Rocker has finally signed. No, not with a Major League Baseball team, but with the independent Tri-City Valley Cats. The former Vanderbilt ace had to go this route because, last summer, the Mets drafted him and then essentially refused to sign him, as they attempted to lowball him due to injury concerns and refused to actually negotiate with their first-round pick.

The Mets were able to do this knowing that they would have a second first-round pick waiting for them in the 2022 draft as compensation for not signing Kumar. So long as their offer is worth at least 40 percent of the slot value for where the player was selected, the club remains eligible for this compensation. While the initial report said that the Mets didn’t make a formal offer to Rocker at all, they’re listed as having the 11th-overall pick in the 2022 amateur entry draft, and it being marked as compensation — clearly, they did make an offer, even if it was as equivalently serious to not making one at all.

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The FBI is now involved in the Angels’ stadium land deal

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We know that, inherently, deals for brand new stadiums that use taxpayer dollars and are constructed on lies about how much value they’ll bring to the community are shady affairs. Usually it’s the legal kind of shady, though, where a team can say whatever they want in their proposal to the city and then, in the vast majority of cases, the city’s governing bodies will vigorously nod along so as not to be the one responsible for losing team X to location Y over a few measly hundreds of millions of dollars that could have gone toward actual infrastructure or schools instead of some mustache-twirling robber baron.

Not so with the Angels’ current stadium machinations, though! It should be pointed out that it’s not Arte Moreno and the Angels who we’re pointing fingers at today, either. Apparently, the mayor of Anaheim, Harry Sidhu, is now being investigated by the FBI for public corruption, and a land deal with the Angels is part of that.

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Round-up: MLB gambling rules, crypto freefall

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The relationship between major sports leagues and sports booking keeps getting closer and closer, which means new rules are necessary to police said relationship. As coverage of the game, both written and in video and in the broadcasts themselves, sees gambling and a gambler’s mindset further fused with every existing atom, adjustments need to be made in order to keep some kind of equilibrium.

So, that’s how it was discovered earlier this week that MLB and the Players Association had a provision in the new collective bargaining agreement designed to address fans who take their gambling losses and desires out on the players just trying to play baseball. MLive’s Evan Woodberry tweeted about it prior to an Astros/Tigers game, saying:

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Senne v. MLB reached settlement, but the fight goes on

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It has been years and years already, but we finally have a resolution to the class action lawsuit that former minor-league players brought against Major League Baseball. Aaron Senne et al v. Kansas City Royals Baseball Corp, more commonly referred to as Senne v. MLB, was filed eight years ago, picked up class action status in 2019, had that status upheld in early 2020 in the Ninth Circuit, and then, later that year, had the Supreme Court come to the same decision. Then, in March of 2022, Judge Joseph Spero, who was set to preside over the case when it went to trial in June, made some preemptive decisions about it: he declared that the suing minor-league players were, in fact, year-round employees, and were owed damages for all the time they had spent not being treated that way.

And now, the trial won’t be happening, as the two sides have reached a settlement. The terms of the settlement are actually unknown at this stage — and that’s by design — so we can’t start discussing whether the amount the players will receive is large enough or too small, if it is notable enough to inspire additional lawsuits or demands from active minor-league players, and so on. There’s still plenty to discuss, however, even without those specifics.

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MLB’s changing baseballs are a labor issue

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I know I just wrote a whole Baseball Prospectus piece with a tone that said, “I can’t believe I am writing about the baseballs again, please let me stop writing about the baseballs,” but it turns out I have even more to say on the matter, so now we’re all going to be subjected to yet another round of it. MLB constantly changing the baseballs, and doing so without the approval or even the awareness of the players, is a labor issue. It’s a lot of other issues, too, but for our purposes here, let’s focus on the labor part of things.

This isn’t a new thought, from myself or others. I wrote as much back at Deadspin in 2019:

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1,000 minor leaguers send MLB petition demanding spring training back pay

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Recall the news of March, if you will: even though Senne v. MLB is not yet at trial, the judge presiding over the class action suit already awarded some damages to the side of the minor-league players. More importantly for our specific purposes here today, though, Judge Joseph Spero determined that, “the plaintiffs performed ‘work’ during spring training in Arizona and Florida, and that travel time on team buses to away games during spring training and in California during the regular season is compensable under law.”

Now let’s rewind to October of 2020, when I wrote for Baseball Prospectus about the importance of Senne v. MLB to not just the past players it was directly representing in court, but to the present and future ones of Minor League Baseball, too:

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A salary floor should be a priority, yes, but not at any cost

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Last week for Baseball Prospectus, I wrote about how a priority in the next collective bargaining agreement between MLB and the Players Association should be a salary floor. Too many teams get away with not spending the money they bring in each year, whether it’s revenue-sharing checks received after the season, their share of national television revenue, or even their own local revenues: a salary floor wouldn’t force everyone to spend as much as they are able, no, but it would at least force the lowest number trotted out their each year to be higher.

There were a few things I didn’t get into in that piece that I’d like to discuss now, though. For one, last week’s feature was mostly about why a salary floor was a necessity, given the current competitive conditions and the revenue even the poorest teams in MLB are bringing in annually. Second, though, is that these other issues deserve more time to themselves, so, let’s give that to them.

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It’s still weird that WAR and the BBWAA are involved in player compensation

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On Thursday, FanGraphs ran a piece explaining that they were making a significant change to how they calculated wins above replacement. There’s nothing wrong with doing so, of course — it’s good that FanGraphs is making a change to how they measure defensive value, especially since what they are changing has been a known issue for some time now amongst people who pay attention to such things. These kinds of changes are how we end up with better understanding of which players are the most valuable, the least valuable, and so on. WAR isn’t the be-all, end-all, even if some treat it as such, but it can still be useful for analysis, so prioritizing its accuracy is necessary.

It’s not a static figure, though: historical WAR changes when the inputs change. Which is why FanGraphs’ list includes a number of tables that do things like show that Nick Ahmed has actually been worth nearly seven more wins above replacement in the last five full seasons plus the pandemic-shortened 2020 campaign than they were giving him credit for: from 2016 through 2021, Ahmed was rated as producing 4.8 WAR, but the change to the formula now has him at 11.6 over the same time period. Baseball-Reference, for what it’s worth, already had Ahmed at 11.5 WAR from 2016 through 2021, largely on the strength of his defensive output.

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Just one more reason to pay minor leaguers during spring training

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At the end of last week, Minor League Baseball Players received their first paychecks since October of 2021. Minor leaguers aren’t paid year round, and they aren’t paid for spring training or fall leagues, either, not unless teams are making some kind of exception for extended seasons and instructionals, as they did during 2020, when there was no regular season at all. And since the first paychecks weren’t even for a full work schedule, as far as paid time goes, they were meager, even for minor-league pay.

Advocates for Minor Leaguers shared a few screenshots on Saturday of these direct deposits: one for $50.44, another for $62.96, a third for $54.98, and the largest of the bunch, a whopping $79.16. That’s it. The players have bills to pay, they have food to purchase and eat, and they’re getting basically nothing from their first paychecks from MLB in six months.

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ah, so you persecute Phil Castellini just because he has different beliefs?

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A fun thing about the Cincinnati Reds is that they finished the 2021 season with a record of 83-79, third in the National League Central. They had Nick Castellanos and his 34 homers, they had the Rookie of the Year, second baseman Jonathan India, a rotation where every regular starter was between league-average and legit great, and they had some intriguing prospects like Hunter Greene on the way as reinforcements. They missed the postseason, but there was the start of something here, if only the team would build on it — especially since the expectation was that the postseason would be permanently expanded for 2022, which did, in fact, come to pass.

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