Last year, I wrote an essay called The Re-formation of American Baseball into a Relegation and Promotion System for a private Google Site. Since I am in a bit of a blogging rut, I have decided to publish it. Even though I no longer agree with the premise itself or many of its ideas, I feel compelled to publish something. So here it is:
In European soccer, there is a system of player movement and team structure that is both functional and systematic. Unlike the American format, each league system in European soccer has hundreds of privately-owned teams. These teams are formatted in a system where every year, the top teams are promoted to a higher league, while the weakest teams are “relegated” into a lower one. Instead of exchanging players for players, they are bought and sold for various, and often extremely high, amounts of money. When this happens, their original contract is declared null and void. On the other hand, American professional sports have several attributes and clauses, such as those of salary caps, that either the Europeans have considered copying, or would work in either situation. This manual, for lack of a better term, describes how I would propose such a system to be implemented in baseball. Due to out traditional use of the franchise system, this is mainly a personal release and food for thought.
With the transfer of the minor leaguesand the sacrifice of all farm players from the major league to the minor league teams, which would occur if such a system were to be implemented, the use of player formatting comes into question. The minors would have to be drastically adjusted. My solution would be to have:
Parent and Reserve Teams
Each team has a 40-man roster. For each week, the team submits between twenty-three and twenty-five players that are eligible to play for that team during the week. There must be at least ten pitchers and twelve fielders. The remaining players are optioned to a reserve team for the week. Each Reserve Team is shared by two parent clubs. Players may only be recalled during the registration period. All salaries are paid in full by the parent club. Reserve Teams may occupy the stadium of one of the parents clubs when the parent club is on on the road or play as a doubleheader with the parent club.
In addition to the parent and reserve teams, players may be optioned to a youth club. At any one time, a team can send up to ten players to the Youth Club. Each Youth Club is a joint venture by three teams. A team may abstain from optioning the full number of players. In this case, the other teams have a lottery to determine how many additional slots each team receives. Each team must have five of the players optioned under the age of twenty-three, and eight of the players must be under the age of twenty-five. The Youth Clubs are required to be financially self-sufficient, but the parent club would pay 75% of all salaries. Stadium structure is the same as under those of the Reserve Teams.
One element of most American sports that is extremely effective, and one that both baseball and European soccer sorely lack, is that of a salary cap. This system works with a highly stringent salary cap containing both a floor and a ceiling. The maximum cap may only be broken for three reasons: a) the team to resign a free agent for 75% of his previous year’s salary, b) to resign a player with less than one year of major league service who is younger than twenty-five for 100% of his previous years salary, or c) as a result of a lost arbitration case (see later) where the team’s offer was compliant with the salary cap. There are also applicable reasons for breaching the salary floor. They are a) a team is already in the red, b) the team was promoted for that season and was compliant with the previous level’s salary cap but, even after the Relegation Draft (see later), was still under the minimum cap, c) a team is currently in the black but, if it met the salary floor, it would be in the red, or d) it is undergoing an ownership change.
Spring Training would take place between March 1 and April 8. Sixty-five players would be able to start on trial runs. Each team would play thirty games, including at least game on every Saturday. On March 31, rosters would have to be cut to fifty-five players, and final fifty-man squad would be declared on April 8.
At the onset of this system, players are able to retain their current contracts. However, beyond that, all salaries must be compliant with the salary cap. A single player’s salary may not consume more than 15% of the cap ceiling or 20% of the team payroll. At the opposite end, players must consume at least 1% of the minimum cap and 0.25% of the team’s payroll. These figures do not include the 25% salary that the Youth Club would pay while the player is optioned there. Once a contract has been signed and agreed upon, paycuts can only be made at the mutual consent of the Owner, Vice President of Baseball Operations, and the player concerned. However, the contract would then be either extended or pensioned, whichever the player decides. If a player is released, 25% of the remaining salary would be pensioned, and the remaining 75% would be null and void. Bonuses do not count against the salary cap unless they exceed one million dollars.
Recent draftees, after the draft, sign specific contracts (see more under arbitration) . However, for players who have already lived out a contract, no deal can exceed seven seasons, including team and player options. This does not include lengthenings caused by paycuts. Loan Deals and Waiver Wire acquisitions are not exempt from the Seven-Year Limit. Contracts may be extended at any time, but this voids the original document.
As opposed to one, major, all-encompassing Amateur Draft, there will be several siphoned off into regions. Each Draft would be required t have at least one team in each level participate. The Draft Order would be determined by level and standing in that level. Relegated and promoted teams are considered to be how they stood in the previous season as opposed to how they would stand as if their records had been transferred to the corresponding league. There would be five rounds of a standard Draft. Teams may select any player from the region who declared themselves eligible for the Draft. College Seniors are automatically eligible; Juniors, Junior College transfers, and High School players must declare their eligibility. College Freshmen and Sophomores from four-year colleges are ineligible unless they have already graduated. Players who did declare their eligibility may elect to return to school if they either go undrafted or cannot secure a contract before the Free Agency Period. If either occurs, they may also become a Free Agent. The Draft will be held the first Saturday after season’s end. Between the draft and Spring Training, no draftees may be released. Teams in Level 5 or lower may select a sixth pick the day before the Free Agency Period.
Rookie contracts behave the same way as a normal contract except that they are automatically five years long. At the end of the contract, if the team and the player cannot agree to a deal, they must hold an arbitration hearing where both teams provide a two-year contract offer and a judge selects which one will be valid. One contract must be decided.
With the instituion of several levels, there comes the question of how players can be moved. Although the old system worked before, that, to a degree, goes out the window. In addition, in European soccer, teams are known to drastically overpay other teams in exchanging players. To combat these issues, the system of player movement would change to include:
Characteristics: Teams may exchange players for players (and draft picks) in the same way teams in American sports always have. However, teams of no more than two levels may be concerned in any one trade, and cash flow in these trades would be disallowed.
Transfer Periods: Between the day after season’s end and July 31 for teams of the same level; Between the beginning of the Free Agency Period and March 1, or June 17 and July 31 for teams of different levels.
Characteristics: Any uncontracted player may be signed to a new contract.
Transfer Period: Between the beginning of the Free Agency and March 1, or between April 15 and July 31
Characteristics: A team may declare any particular player Transfer Listed. The League reviews the player and assigns a monetary value to him. Teams may then offer cash to the player’s team in exchange for his services. The offer must be between 90 and 125% of the Transfer Value. The team may accept offers for the player as they wish. Then, the player negotiates with the teams whose offers were accepted. In the meantime, his current team may choose whether or not to play him in the current games. Once contracts with the player and one the teams are agreed upon, the player chooses which team he wants to play for. All Transfers take effect immediately after League Approval. When a Transfer is finalized, the player’s original contract is declared null and void. Periods: Between the beginning of the Free Agency Period and March 1, or between June 17 and July 31
Characteristics: A player is Waived as opposed to being released. After that, all the other teams in the level, in order from worst to best record at the time of the Waiving, have twelve hours to claim the player. They may refuse the player at any time during the period, and, after twelve hours, the player remains unclaimed. Teams that claim a player have seventy-two hours to agree to a Trade or a Transfer with the original team. If no deal is agreed upon, the cycle continues in the same order. If no team in the same level claims the player, the cycle continues with the level directly below, then directly above. If he is still unclaimed, he returns tot the team. Periods: Same as Transfers
Characteristics: Two teams establish a player’s temporary movement to another team. Loans may take place over a period of between one and twelve months. The two teams agree upon which percentage of a player’s salary is paid by which team. Loaned players count against the acquiring teams’ cap if the spell is sixth months or longer, the current team’s if less than sixth months. The acquiring team may choose whether or not they want to pay the current team, but if they do not pay, the player is recallable. Periods: Same as Free Agency
Oftentimes, teams lose money. Therefore, teams might need a financial boost from teams with a positive balance sheet. Teams would only need to revenue share with teams that were in their level during the previous season. For each level, a median profit level would be found. All of the teams above the median would be required to share 25% of the excess above the median. Teams in the red would not have to share revenue. The shared money is thrown into a pot and evenly distributed among the teams that had profits below the median.
Relegation Penalties and Promotion Bonuses
When a team is relegated or promoted, there are catches. For promoted teams they are positive, for relegated teams, they are negative. Many of the promotion rewards are at the expense of the relegated team.
The Dispersal Draft
When a team is relegated, they must have excess cap room for the lower level. To do so, the relegated team releases some of its players into a pot. After this, the team must have $50K cap room for every player released. Then, the promoted teams are free to draft any of the players in an order selected by a lottery. If there are not enough players remaining for each team to draft one, the excess players become Free Agents. If a drafting team exceeds the player and cap limits, it may release only one of its draftees. All other released players must have been on the roster since at least July 31. The relegated player may resign the release player for a 75% cap hit for twelve hours after the release. If the two parties fail to agree on a contract within the time limit, the cap reduction is lost, and business returns as usual.
The relegated team must pay the promoted team 75% of the previous year’s revenue share, regardless of whether they shared or received.
The promoted team receives an additional draft pick from either its own or the relegated team’s region, applicable at the end of the draft. The relegated team is unaffected.
Pros and Cons
Minor league cities with teams that do well get a major financial boost
Players are not “stuck” in a specific level if their team does well
More players have a chance to play professional baseball
The system is less foreign to Europeans
Home-grown players raise ticket sales
Horrible teams do not stink up the major league perennially
The best players play in the best leagues
Well-performing teams are rewarded
Players get to the big leagues faster
There are salary limits
There is a salary cap
The initial price is highly negative
A good prospect could get stuck on a really bad team
Towns with really bad lower-level teams will suffer
The minor league system basically unravels