A set free agency age won’t fix service time, or the obsession with cheap players

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Earlier this week, The Athletic’s Ken Rosenthal wrote about a service time solution presented to him by an anonymous team executive. The idea is a set age for free agency for all players: “Make all players who celebrate their 28th birthday by a specified date eligible for free agency at the end of that season.” Rosenthal discusses some pros and cons of the plan, and ends on the idea that both MLB and the Players Association should be focusing on making sure service time considerations are no longer the impetus for whether a prospect is ready to reach the bigs.

I’d like to go in a little further on the issues with this kind of system, though, separate from the concerns Rosenthal raised. Primarily, I don’t think it even solves the problem it supposedly seeks to address. The idea is that, knowing a player might reach free agency sooner than six years (or seven years) after reaching the majors, a team would promote them to the bigs sooner. The more likely scenario, given what we know about how teams operate and view players, is that we’d just see more of a churn through players to ensure the roster was always stocked full of young-enough pre-arbitration players. So, an exacerbation of a pre-existing problem.

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