By: Noah Wright
Unlike the NFL or NBA, the MLB does not have a salary cap. They do have a luxury tax, which acts like a soft cap, as it does discourage major spending. However, one thing the MLB also does not have is something called a salary floor. I would like to propose that MLB should introduce this concept.
So what is a salary floor? It’s kind of the opposite of a salary cap. Instead of a team not being allowed to have no more than X amount on their payroll, the team must have to spend X amount towards the luxury tax payroll. A possible punishment could be a team losing a compensation pick if they have one, or their draft spot being moved down in the next draft. Maybe even make it incentive laden to encourage more spending, like giving the team an extra pick in the 12th round or so if they exceed the $100 million mark. So I want to go over what the pros and cons would be of implementing a salary floor.
Currently, we are in the second straight slow off season. Though it has been a bit fast than last year, 2 of the biggest free agents for the last 5 years or so, Bryce Harper and Manny Machado, are yet to be signed. That’s just 2 of a handful of other quality free agents. This would encourage some spending. It would also get some quality free agents, but not super stars, off the board like Mike Moustakas, Dallas Keuchel, Gerardo Parra, Clay Buchholz, and Gio Gonzalez.
A salary floor would be a good way to force owners to put money into their product. As a Pirate fan, I have seen this first hand. Even though Bob Nutting’s, the Pirates owner, estimated net worth reaches into the billions, they have the lowest payroll in the NL, and the second lowest in the entire MLB. Currently, it sits just below $59 million. Looking at the Pirates team, they’re just one or two good pieces away from being a .500 team, to a serious contending team. That could also be said for the Oakland A’s, and Tampa Bay Rays (lowest payroll in entire MLB, sitting at $47 million). This salary floor would force these teams’ owners to invest into the team to acquire players who could help them, and push them over the top.
A way the salary floor could have an indirect impact is on tanking. Right now, tanking is kind of an issue. It seems like if you aren’t in it, you’re tanking. If a salary floor was in place, it’s possible the Marlins don’t go full tank. Afterall, they need to have payroll. Even if they do get rid of Stanton’s contract, they would go out and get some pitchers who could help them, as it would also help them go above the salary floor.
The owner’s probably would not be for it. It would make them spend more, and they probably don’t want to spend more than they have to. Also, if you think about it, how many teams is this going to impact? Let’s say the payroll line is around $80 million. Currently, there are 6 teams below it, and the Padres are just below it at around $74 million. In reality by the end of the off season, there could be just 5 teams below it. Is putting this into play going to truly affect enough that it’s worth it?
Another possible problem I could see arising is bad contracts. Team will feel rushed to sign players to get above the salary floor. Instead of going into the off season testing the waters and seeing trying to negotiate contracts, teams will be willing to take an offer on the first three or so times discussing the contract’s details. Teams entering the off season in a rush will cause less examination of future impact, leading to more contracts like Albert Pujols or Chris Davis.
This is a way to make some teams more competitive without basically punishing those willing to take risks. It’s not fair to those like the Red Sox, Yankees, and Dodgers who consistently put money into their product, to be forced to cut budget with a hard salary cap. A hard salary cap is basically saying to those who are willing to invest and take risks that you are investing too much and want to win too much that you are making this unfair to teams like the Pirates. With a salary floor, it punishes those owners who are cheap, and always refuse to invest. You can’t just buy a team, but you can’t think you can have a completely homegrown team to win. A team needs both home grown players and players brought in through trade and FA to thrive, and the Pirates, Rays and A’s have one of those things, the talented home grown players. The positives of more competition, less tanking, and better off seasons all are better for the sport of baseball in the long run. Sure there may be contracts like Pujols’, but those are going to happen with or without the salary floor, and the owners who aren’t spending should be punished for not investing, or even putting that much care into a product that they own.