No, not the kind that makes your mother gasp while serving as punctuation in a Guy Ritchie movie, the former Astro-turned-analyst is talking about collusion.
Judging by this tweet, Ensberg suggests teams are shopping for players to help keep their prospect’s “arbitration clock” from striking two. As in Super 2, the service time designation which allows young players to reach
free agency salary arbitration one year early. Ed Note: Thanks to commenter Torgen for pointing out players reach arbitration, not free agency, a year earlier.
Teams, as you would imagine, are in no rush to let their elite young players reach arbitration before they’re finished milking all the value from their entry level contract. So young players who can contribute are artificially held in the minors, usually with some manufactured excuse like “seasoning” or “handling the pitching staff” serving as the wool pulled low over the eyes of hopeful fans.
The 45 day time period Ensberg mentions is more than enough time to let young players finish the season with the big club and stick on the roster for the duration of the following season without risking losing that one cheap year.
Up step veteran free-agent ballplayers in need of a full time gig. Teams offer handshake contracts with “unspoken” deadlines. If the player produces, they might land work with another team or make themselves attractive in trades. If it doesn’t work out, it is easy to cut bait and fill the lineup with the young talent who should’ve been there all along.
This is the type of de-facto “pay for performance” the MLBPA has long rallied against. With the baseball CBA due to expire on December 11th, expect many of these arbitration loopholes to close. The union needs to look out for both its young players coming up and the veteran players at the end of their careers. Baseball owners need to avoid the huge guaranteed money pitfalls the NFL is bound and determined to eliminate.
When management is openly flaunting abuses of the system, it is clearly time to adjust the manner in which contracts are structured.