Hope and Faith: The Summer of Scott Boras's Discontent
10 Harv. J. Sports & Ent. L. 85 (2019)
34 Pages Posted: 14 Feb 2019
Date Written: February 5, 2019
The 2018 Major League Baseball (MLB) free agency period drew great attention from fans and commentators alike because of the seeming lack of lucrative contracts offered to this year’s players. Theories abounded about the reasons for the slow and anomalous free agent market. Some saw it as simply a relatively weak group of free agents. Others viewed the 2018 free agent market as representing a more systemic shift in the business and operation of baseball, particularly with the rise of data analytics. Still, others pointed to the increase in the “tanking” phenomenon in MLB as the reason for the change in free agency. While each of these theories provides some explanation for what MLB experienced during the 2018 offseason, these narratives provide only an incomplete picture of the changes that MLB experienced. In particular, they overlook how the competitive balance reforms contained in the latest MLB collective bargaining agreement (CBA) contributed to these changes in the free agent market. In an attempt to create better competitive balance among teams, the MLB CBA may have created a context within which teams are incentivized to move away from established approaches to roster development and payroll. Given the unique legal status of CBAs, the players are likely stuck with this new normal in the free agent market until the current MLB CBA expires in 2021. This article explores the various theories regarding the 2018 free agent market within the context of the MLB CBA and the law related to professional sports leagues and their CBAs. In doing so, this article provides greater clarity to these free agent changes and forecasts what it may portend for the next round of collective bargaining between owners and players.
Keywords: Sports, Baseball, Collective Bargaining, Collective Bargaining Agreement, Free Agency, Free Agents, Labor Law
JEL Classification: J01, J08, J18, J22, J3, J4, J40, J41, J44, J5, Z2, Z20, Z22, Z28
Suggested Citation: Suggested Citation