Back on June 15, 1976, as the first wave of MLB serfs-in-spikes was about to hit the open market under the original rules of free agency, a commissioner’s decision cited as “in the best interests of baseball” was made by then-commissioner Bowie Kuhn. Commissioner Bud Selig should have repeated that veto power with the Yankees and A.J. Burnett.
Yep. This would be the opening paragraph of Richard Griffin’s column in the Sunday edition of the Toronto Star, calling on Bud Selig to veto last week’s trade between the New York Yankees and Pittsburgh Pirates because . . . because . . . because . . .
I’m not really sure why.
I think it has something to do with this:
With A.J. coming off an 18-win, 231 strikeout season, the Yanks outbid all comers. They offered an outrageous five years and $88.5 million for a guy who was barely .500 and has always required the presence of better pitchers on his own staff to be most effective.
The commissioner’s office should consider how that bad Burnett contract impacted other similar free agents in the winter of 2008-09 and the next off-season and how it had a negative trickle down effect that hurt small market teams like Pittsburgh.
That would actually be five years and $82.5 million, and the Yankees were far from being the only team that offered Burnett a five year deal, but that’s really neither here nor there for what Brien Jackson of It’s About The Money Stupid, refers to a “precious example of mindless Yankee hating.”
The crux of Griffin’s argument is that New York can do whatever it wants because of its vasts amounts of money, and the Burnett trade is the perfect example of the disparity in baseball caused by finances.
I would suggest that the Burnett trade is a far better example of MLB’s luxury tax system at work. The Yankees can easily afford to have both Burnett and Raul Ibanez on their roster this coming season, and they’d likely be a slightly better team for it. However, the organization wants to keep their payroll from being outrageously taxed, so in order to do that, they moved Burnett and a portion of his salary in order to finance the Ibanez acquisition and reduce their payroll.
A far better case for Griffin’s thesis would’ve occurred if the Yankees had merely held on to Burnett and use him as a swingman out of the bullpen while continuing to pay the entirety of his salary, or if New York had put even more money in the deal to sweeten the pot in return for higher ceiling prospects.
As it stands, there’s absolutely nothing shady about the Yankees trading Burnett. Whereas, Jackson reminds us that there’s a whole lot of shady business involved in the commissioner of baseball stepping in to suppress free agent salaries.
It would be totally illegal. Not just illegal in an “against the rules of baseball sense,” but illegal in a “violates federal law and would result in Major League Baseball paying millions of dollars in damages” illegal.