Links: International Spending, Marte Extension Value, MLB Blackouts

**Ben Badler of Baseball America wrote yesterday that MLB has quietly been slashing money for international players, while the draft bonus pools are rising. He points out that the average international pools have been rising by 1.2 percent. However, teams previously could sign six players for $50,000 or less without having those signings count towards their bonus pools. That is no longer allowed, which means that each team will have $300,000 less to spend on international players. For a team like the Pirates, who have a lot of success with smaller bonus players, that extra money is huge.

**Jedd Gyorko signed a six year extension yesterday, guaranteeing him $35 M for the next five years, starting in 2015. By comparison, Starling Marte got $31 M over the next six years, with 2014 included. That means Gyorko got $4 M more guaranteed, while having the same amount of service time, which seems crazy when you look at the two players side-by-side (h/t Dave Cameron) and see how Marte has been considerably better so far.

**Jeff Passan wrote a great article about MLB’s blackout policy, and how it is hurting an already eroding fan base. Passan points out that MLB has been fighting to keep the blackouts in place, even though this actually hurts fans in places like Las Vegas, Buffalo, Iowa, and other areas that are blacked out by six or more teams. On a related note, Jeff Passan is my spirit animal.

Tim started Pirates Prospects in 2009 from his home in Virginia, which was 40 minutes from where Pedro Alvarez made his pro debut in Lynchburg. That year, the Lynchburg Hillcats won the Carolina League championship, and Pirates Prospects was born from Tim's reporting along the way. The site has grown over the years to include many more writers, and Tim has gone on to become a credentialed MLB reporter, producing Pirates Prospects each year, and will publish his 11th Prospect Guide this offseason. He has also served as the Pittsburgh Pirates correspondent for Baseball America since 2019. Behind the scenes, Tim is an avid music lover, and most of the money he gets paid to run this site goes to vinyl records.

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Tim, the reason for the slashing the international money pool is because Major League Baseball is facing an impending lawsuit regarding amateur players rights. In fact, the lawsuit has already been filed and is now making its’ way through the court system. Major League Baseball is most likely attempting to be pro-active in addressing this problem. The limits are essentially a salary cap. Not against the Major League teams, But against the people who wield undue influence on these players,.their Latin handlers. In Japanese baseball, the process is more official. Yu Darvish or Masahiro Tanaka are formally put up for bid (by the Japanese team for a rights fee) to any and all MLB teams and the highest bidder gets the rights to negotiate a contract with them. It is a straight, forward and transparent business transaction However, with Latin player transactions, there is a measure of backdoor shadiness that often transcends open business practice. Remember Miguel Sano? The Pirates had befriended this kid since he was a young teen. They were all but certain to sign him. What happened? His “handlers” probably owed the Twins a favor in some Quid Pro Quo arrangement and funneled this kid to them, even though this kid preferred to play for the Pirates. The Pirates took a PR hit for this because it made them look cheap. But they said nothing. They understood the rules of the game. In the Luis Heredia case, his handlers took $2 million of the $2.6 million that the Pirates gave this kid. I am sure that the Pirates KNEW that this kid wasn’t getting all that money. There was report by the Sports Business Journal that the lawsuit is affecting CBA negotiations between the Players Union and the Owners to Implement a world wide draft. Again, this move, which is basically a salary cap on Latin American Players is being implemented by the owners in case they don’t get a world wide draft in place.


I have complained about the mlb blackout policy on this site and every other place I could find including talking calling the Pirates themselves. This all due to my issue of having absolutely no way to see the Pirates the last two years living in Columbus Ohio. Previously I could get the sports package on direct tv and watch root in what was considered regional coverage. C-Bus 3 hours from Columbus and they began blacking out the regional Root coverage in 2012…and also the package…so I couldn’t see any games unless they were playing the reds or on National TV…which they never were. You have to question a league that doesn’t want its fans to see the games! I have moved to St. Petersburg but will not pay for the package to see the Bucs. I am still pretty angry and don’t want to give the mlb my business…although I will go watch a game live. It should be simple: If you want to see a game you pay and you get the game…I can’t believe it is not this way. Maybe a new commissioner will have some post-1970 ideas.


There seems to be a financial unfairness in mlb’s treatment of its talented young Latino players compared to it’s treatment of talented young American players.
Let’s take two Bucco prospects and look at them: Taillon and Polanco.
Taillon was in the draft and got a huge signing bonus. Assuming he becomes the pitcher he’s expected to be, he’s probably not eager to sign a team friendly extension when he’s in his arb years since he’s already got a large chunk of money.
Polanco was not drafted and did not get a large bonus. (Even if he was considered the best player that year, American or otherwise, there is no way he would have gotten a bonus like the $6.5 mil Taillon got.) He will probably be more susceptible to the lure of an extension a la Marte since he will have made a relative pittance by that point. In fact before Marte signed his extension, I read more than a few people using that very rationale for him signing an extension.
It seems to me that talented Latino players get short changed in the current system, both in what they originally sign for and what circumstances may force them to accept in their first large contract.
On top of that, you’ve got what mlb did a couple of years ago by capping how much teams can spend in the international market and now further reducing how big a pot each team has to use but not making a commensurate reduction in the amounts teams can use in the draft. This at a time when baseball is awash in cash and record high contracts are being handed out.
I can’t believe that agents and the MLBPA are blind to this happening. I’m waiting for someone to raise a stink about it. It affects many more players than the stupid decision of two players and their agent not taking above market value QOs and having to live with the consequences.

Douglas Byrd

Many sports have been ruined by greed which has incentivized a lack of exposure. Boxing for example, used to be on ‘regular’ TV. Now, it is nearly irrelevant simply due to the fact that few can see the major fights. Hell, even after the fight ESPN cannot show footage often. The shortsightedness is terrible. MLB suffers the same basic condition and is making choices that hurt the sport but make money for the invested.


That’s the point, Doug. Sports like boxing or NFL know the bars will pay their fees to show the their sports. The bars make the money back by charging you $5 or $6 for a beer. Which is why a boxer can get 20 million for one fight.

Josh Dz

Tim the passan article was great. I understand that they don’t want to lose revenues but there are so many holes in the system. I live in the Buffalo NY area and I cannot want the Pirates games. Let me repeat that, I CANT watch thw Bucs live on TV. I can’t get it on local cable, Time warner up here does not carry root sports, and I can’t pay to watch them either. I have a full subscription to MLB.TV and the Bucs games are blacked out live because they claim Buffalo as a home Market.
How is this fair to me as a fan? I am trying to pay to watch the game and I can’t. They tell me that I have to watch the game on the local station, not… but when I say the local station does not carry Root sports… they tell me oh well… there’s nothing we can do about it…


I feel for you Josh. A league that allows its fans to be consistently alienated is a league that will always be trailing behind other leagues. How they think excluding fans is helping revenue is a great reason to just follow college and minor league ball. They are lucky I am addicted. Some fans probably just find something else to follow.


To answer your question, it isn’t. MLB’s policy is a joke. I didn’t read Passan’s article, but I wish I could see the revenue structure from a subscription to MLB.TV, i.e. how much goes to MLB versus how much teams get.

To be brief, I think it would make more sense to have each team sell subscriptions for the “rights” to view games through other devices. Basically, this creates 30 separate markets. Drop the price from $129.99 to $99.99 since you no longer get every game from every team. This drives up demand and doesn’t alienate anyone, which grows the sport. Then, keep the $129.99 premium package for people who want to have access to everything.


When I was able to get the regional package I paid $12 a month for 6 months a year to see the Bucs and went to one game a year…this is from Columbus, OH. So they basically made $120 or so off of me a year for quite a few years…and really I am not in their market even though they changed it so I was basically in a Pirate-free vortex after that. Since they changed that rule I have not spent any money on a regular season game and don’t spend the $12 a month so they get zero from me other than going to spring training games. I am a case study of a fan that won’t pay $130 a year to watch his team…But $70-80 or so is reasonable…plus you don’t piss people off so they boycott you.

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