Could Prince Fielder Cause an MLB Salary Cap?

A Unique Situation

The NBA, NFL, and NHL all play by different rules than Major League Baseball, and I’m not talking about the rules used on game day.

MLB is the only major North American sports league that does not operate under a salary cap. There has always been a lot of debate over if the lack of a salary cap helps or hurts MLB and its franchises. There are a lot of traditionalist that believe implementing a salary cap would be on par with moving to a field with only two bases. Others contend it would level the economic playing field between small and big market teams.

The current CBA does not allow for a salary cap. When that fact is paired with twenty years of baseball labor peace, and bigger profit margin now than ever before in baseball it would seem very unlikely that a cap will be in play anytime soon. Unless, that is, a major occurrence made one unavoidable.

Prince Fielder

Prince Fielder, and his curfent free agency, could be that occurrence. Chances are he signs a deal worth less than the contract Albert Pujols just inked with the LA Angels for ten years, $254 million. Fielder’s deal also most likely will fall short of Ryan Howard’s five year, $125 million contract finalized a few seasons ago, but he still could make a lot of money.

His agent is Scott Boras, and there are three things that life has proven certain: 1) death 2) taxes and 3) Scott Boras always gets his clients big money. While the market for Fielder has been slow developing so far this winter, Boras has promised his client will indeed get paid, so while Prince won’t make as much as Pujols or Howard he is going to make some serious money.

The Point

Three teams have been implicated in the Fielder talk. It is likely he will either end up with the Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, or Miami Marlins.

Should Fielder sign with the first two teams it will alter the look of their batting order and the division he lands in, but if the Miami Marlins sign him it could someday alter the look of baseball forever.

The Marlins arrived at the winter meetings in Dallas last month as a team with a new stadium, new uniforms, new logo, new name (formerly the Florida Marlins), and a new resolve to compete. They signed high profile free agent shortstop  Jose Reyes and pitcher Mark Buehrle, and also offer large contracts to Pujols and pitcher C.J. Wilson. This new big money philosophy got the baseball world to take notice. Before December the Marlin had always operated on a bare bones economic formula consistently having a payroll that ranked toward the bottom of baseball.

Even after winning the World Series in 1997 and 2003 the Marlin traded away much of their young talent so they would not have to pay out large contracts. Is it possible that at team which had one of the lowest payrolls in baseball could all of a sudden have lots of spare cash to spend even with out changing owners?

What if Miami is able to ink a deal with Fielder worth his projected value, a yearly average of $20 million? That would mean that each season a team that used to pay one player over $10 million a year would be paying three players a combined $42 million a year. If you add in All-Star third baseman Hanley Ramirez, who already was on the roster, that number rises to $53 million.

That yearly commitment combined with the $151 million dollars the franchise just contributed to build its new $515 stadium means the Marlins need the fans to support the team worse than ever, and that could be a problem. Miami averaged 19,000 fans per game last season. If the fans don’t turn out at a higher average the Marlins will have trouble paying the bills, and that would mean a familiar occurrence in Miami: fire sale.

Other teams would be interested in Reyes, Buehrle, and Ramirez as long as they were performing well. Fielder’s contract would be problamatic, because of its worth, and possibly its length, if Boras get the seven to ten years he desires.

Miami’s front office is gambling that the fans will support the team now that a new stadium is in place. If the revenue doesn’t start pouring in there will be issues in South Beach, and you don’t have to be an economist to do the simple math that proves it.

The league having to help the Marlins out with its finances could spark a major debate over the need for a salary cap to ensure teams don’t risk themselves in ways they can’t afford.

For now, this scenario is a bit a far fetched, but isn’t all the way out of the realm of possibility. Afterall, baseball is all about surprises.

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About brettmcmillan

Believer. Broadcaster. Story Teller.

Posted on January 19, 2012, in Uncategorized and tagged , , , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. 5 Comments.

  1. I personally think that you are an excellent sports writer. You really know the field and I think you should definitely keep up with this.

  2. Very scanable! I love that you include videos and so many links in your blog posts. Extremely informative! Keep up the great work, this seems like a great passion for you.

  3. I hope the MLB doesn’t implement a salary cap, acquiring multiple superstars in baseball isn’t as detrimental as say in the NBA down in South Beach. Good work Brett keep it going.

  4. Man, I have never seen anyone that passioned about baseball. It is a pleasure to read your posts and also very informative. I hope you keep writing about sports for the rest of your life.

  5. Such a good topic to talk about. Many people are interested in salary caps, and your topics really helped us understand. Also, very scannable.

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