MLB teams embrace the gig economy

So says this article at SI, anyway.

For ballplayers, the gig economy divides work among more players, which means less pay for players. A record 1,270 players appeared in major league games last year. That’s a 15.8% increase in jobs since 1998, the first season with 30 teams. Yet the average salary went down last year for the first time since 2004—while revenues again went up.

The Dodgers are an example, says the author:

Take Los Angeles outfielder Joc Pederson, 26, as an example. Pederson hits 58 points lower against lefthanded pitchers than righthanders, so he has been given a gig job. Had he played outfield for the Dodgers in the 1960s, as Willie Davis did, Pederson would have been a full-time player. Davis hit 42 points worse against lefties than righties at the same age as Peterson. Yet by age 26, Davis had five seasons with 550 or more plate appearances. Pederson has only one such season.

It’s easier for the Dodgers to give at-bats against lefties to somebody else than to commit to sticking with Pederson in hopes that he improves on his career .181 average against lefties.

103 thoughts on “MLB teams embrace the gig economy

    • Got to see Robinson play in person at old Yankee Stadium in 1967. He was awesome, going 3-5 with a double as the O’s cruised. I still have the score card. Three hall-of-famers on the field, with Frank, Brooks Robinson, and Mickey Mantle. Mantle played 1B. Luis Aparicio was on the bench for the O’s. Of course, since this was the season after the debacle in ’66, I was probably rooting for the Yanks, to no avail.


    This article ties nicely with the union’s counterproposal that addressed some of its concerns about “competitive integrity,” providing enticements for teams to spend money in an effort to compete and penalizing teams that lose 90-plus games in consecutive seasons with a drop in draft position and a reduction of international-bonus funds.

    I think 81 games would be a better target so that a team has to win half their games every other year to not be penalized.

  2. Noting the scuttlebutt on DH, three batter minimum, 12 pitcher limit, 26 person rosters… it’s pretty late in the game for roster construction so guessing that it is just a shot over the bow at this point. Otherwise sign James Loney now!

  3. Jon unsettled by the off-season (to date). Find myself perhaps a bit more optimistic than Jon, a position I am not used to! He seems to be girding his loins for fallout from fans the minute things don’t go right. Hard to imagine, however, a worse start than the team had last year. On the other hand, after six straight division titles, fans seem more concerned with last game of the season rather than the first. Progress? Not sure. Tends to suck the joy out of the season. Like being a Yankee fan.

    • There are uncertainties but, personally, I’m not quite ängstlich – in fact, even after last season’s awful start, I never doubted they’d win the division. I’ll always appreciate the sustained excellence over six seasons.

  4. Rosenthal at The Athletic:

    To this point, only two teams – the Nationals ($188 million) and Yankees ($140.05 million) – have made greater free-agent investments this offseason than the Dodgers, whose signings of Pollock, reliever Joe Kelly, left-hander Hyun-Jin Ryu and infielder David Freese add up to $107.4 million. Combine those with a new three-year, $93 million deal for ace lefty Clayton Kershaw – a deal that was necessary to prevent him from becoming a free agent – and the Dodgers are tops.

    He says Pollock is a better fit for the Dodgers than Harper was, since Pollock is a better defender and a right-handed hitter.

    Cool your jets, Dodgers fans. You’ve already got a winning team that will be favored to win its division. That’s the message he’s offering.

    • It’s true that Pollock’s a better defender, but Harper hits lefties well. He’s also done a better job of staying on the field than Pollock has, and is considerably younger.

      • Yeah, such a straight up comparison between the two players is rather nonsensical. In any event, Pollock actually has reverse splits.

  5. Also from The Athletic:

    Going by the union figures, salaries barely rose over the most recent three-year period, increasing 3.6 percent from 2016 to ‘18 after rising 23 percent from ‘12 to ‘15.

    [Player agent] Levinson said, is largely attributable to changes in free agency, which drove the player market for more than 40 years and helped make the union the wealthiest in professional sports, and one of the most powerful in history.

    Levinson did a study of the players who attained the necessary six years of major-league service to become free agents in 2017-18, eliminating those who had retired, signed international contracts or were not expected to play due to injury.

    Among his findings:

    *The market was the third straight in which overall free-agent values declined.

    *Players were not necessarily benefiting as they reached the open market, with 71 percent of all free agents accepting a pay cut.

    *Multi-year deals were shorter in length, with 67 percent of them landing at two years.

    *The disappearing middle class of players was reflected by the decline in median salary, from $1.65 million in 2014-15 to $1.32 million in ’17-18.

    Baseball holds a different view, in part because it projects the current free-agent class to command the second-highest total of guaranteed dollars ever committed in one offseason, trailing only the 2015-16 group that received approximately $2.35 billion.

  6. More alarm about the free agent [lack of] market from the NYT.

    And yet for the second season in a row, at a time of the off-season when the best free agents typically would have already signed handsome new contracts, most owners have tucked away their wallets and claimed to need no more talent.

  7. At his new place Grant points this out:

    “You get 40-percent off with this link. Everyone likes saving 40 percent.”

    That’s a bigger discount than I got last year when I subscribed, and as a subscriber I don’t get it now for renewing. A word to the wise or frugal.

  8. Provocative headline at The Athletic: “Despised former Dodgers owner Frank McCourt is now making enemies as owner of Marseille”

    If you read the article, however, you get the sense he’s gotten onto the back of a tiger without fully understanding what kind of beastie it is:

    Nowhere else in France do the fans hold so much power. The club is theirs. The city supports them. If McCourt doesn’t fully understand that yet, he soon will.

  9. Keith Law of ESPN and his top 100: Ruiz (27) and Verdugo (37) are there as usual, and Smith at (97), but a lot of love for Lux (41) and May (49)!

  10. Houston Mitchell of the LA Times is puzzled by the behavior of the Dodgers’ President Kasten at FanFest 2019.

    Some fans are fine with how things are, but there is a segment of the fan base that has that frustration. The frustration is that they believe team officials are not going all out to win and are more worried about payroll.

    Team President Stan Kasten was at FanFest, and he apparently thinks those fans don’t exist.

    • Difference between being Nerdy and being pretty much rude to all but the blindly loyal. There’s not a fan in America that could influence a front office, but to brush aside opinions like he did is off-putting. His comment about attendance brings back memories of Lee Elia on Cubs fans.

      • David Pinto has a different take. While admitting he’s offended by Kasten’s “nobody cares about the economics” remark, he says

        I’ve often read that prices are signals. If Dodgers fans are willing to pay the price for season tickets, and sales are good, then the Dodgers should assume they are doing something right. The reporter and a few select fans might not like it, but the actual money says fans are betting on a good year.

        He goes on to make the point that the free agent system is perpetually described as broken; this year is no exception. He doesn’t really think it is.

        • Ok, but he says the system is not broken, but then goes on to propose a way to fix it. To me he is saying that players not getting a payoff at FA time after spending years under team control, so he proposes higher minimum pay and shorter years for team control.

        • Pinto kind of makes my point. If we use attendance as the only measure of success, then the Cubs never had to win and what the Oakland Raiders are doing in gutting the franchise is only being done to make Davis wealthy. I’m in no position to question the front office moves, but the comments rubbed my the wrong way. There’s more to judge fan relations than merely ticket sales.

    • Off putting, but can understand his frustration as they are doing what they said they would do, putting a competitive team on the field and focusing on player development, while winding down the budget from the initial splurge. Fans tend to take for granted resigning Klayton, Turner and Kenley, because they were already on the team, but these were big market moves.

  11. I’ve always wondered whether there’s a right-handed bias in baseball – LHHs often get slammed for not hitting LHPs, but management cuts RHHs a lot more slack v. RHPs. However, it’s also true that from their earliest playing days, LHHs get fewer opportunities v. LHPs, simply because there are so many more RHPs. Nobody platoons in Little League, I don’t think.

    • Am recalling studies that showed RHB do relatively better against RHP than LHB against LHP and the conclusion (guess?) that it was due to familiarity. Quick look at 2018 NL splits at RHB v. RHP at OPS+ 92 and LHB v. LHP at 89.

        • Oops, ignore all of this, I was looking at wrong column in BR: MLB is actually 100, 100! NL 95, 103; AL 105, 97. So, one season snapshot is all over the place and doesn’t gibe with intuition (mine at least)

  12. At The Athletic, Dale Murphy (the former Braves slugger) has ideas about the next CBA:

    what if owners had to operate within a tiny free-agent window? What if they had to make all of their offseason moves in one week? Can you imagine the buzz and excitement that would create? It would a) prevent owners from sitting on their hands all winter and b) shine a spotlight on the sport at a time when it desperately needs it.

    Baseball should implement some sort of free-agency window, ideally the week before, or after, the Super Bowl. That would allow MLB to take center stage and still give pitchers and catchers time to report to spring training by mid-February.

    He has three others, including a set percentage of revenue for players, a change in draft order to avoid incentivizing tanking, and, most radically, halving ticket prices if the team is hopelessly out of the pennant race at August 15 or thereabouts.

    Interesting thoughts.

    • Giving players a percent of revenue and cutting prices in half after August 15 for some would be an interesting analysis and discussion.

      The free agent signing period probably should be reduced.

      Players should get a base pay and then get $5M per WAR until they become free agents and then can negotiate the factor. I would also limit contracts to maximum of 5 years.

    • Find the anti-tanking/draft idea to be intriguing. Not sure about the FA window idea, though. Could see a lot of negatives for players and teams just to get fans excited about baseball in February.

  13. Plaschke is not pleased that the Dodgers aren’t spending their revenue the way he thinks they should. “Pollock is not Harper,” he sneers.

    Houston Mitchell, on the other hand, is willing to wait and see, hoping they’ll still trade for Realmuto.

  14. Pollock is a good fit, but his quality as a player is being overshadowed by the context of losing our beloved Yasiel and not getting Harper. Daniel Brim points out that perhaps the best laid plans of clearing salary space for Bryce was undermined by Ryu accepting the QO, which limited how much the FO was able to offer and still remain under the luxury tax.

    • I think fans loved Puig much more than his teammates, Manager, and Front Office. Trading Puig to Cincinnati after Ward went there proves that Friedman has a since of humor.

  15. On gigging, back in the day (Stengel with Yanks and Weaver with O’s), it was just called platooning.

    • Yeah, but there wasn’t as much disparity in pay between regulars and platooners in the days of the reserve clause. Now a full-time second baseman gets millions more than a utility guy (unless you’re Ben Zobrist, apparently).

      • These are really not utility guys of the past, they are platooners. That said, a good article on a variety of trends in baseball, in particular the age issue, where guys getting past arbitration don’t find the FA payoff of the past.

    • I read this twice before realizing the third time you said gigging and not giggling.

  16. Pollack is certainly a full timer in CF, given his defense and his splits, question is if he can remain healthy given track record? Belli slides to LF or RF, with Joc or Verdugo leaving in possible Realmuto deal? Or Max moved? Stay tuned!