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White Sox Wed Mar 06 2013

Sale and Trout's Play Challenges MLB Salary System

Sox_200.pngWith a blazing fastball and a sharp slider, Chris Sale pitched his way into our hearts last year. The lefty with the sidearm delivery racked up 17 wins with a 3.05 ERA in 192 innings in 2012, all during his first season as a major league starting pitcher. Sale had a team-high 5.7 WAR, and if it weren't for late season Sox collapse and two megastars named Verlander and Price, Sale would have generated some major Cy Young buzz.

The Sox had Sale on the hook for only $500,000 last season. He'll make $600,000 this season. He is a total steal for the White Sox.

This is MLB's salary structure with its younger players -- they make little money (automatic renewals by the club) their first three years, then become arbitration eligible for another three years with no guarantee to a long-term deal.

Finally, after six years in the big leagues, a player can then become a free agent, have his value assessed by the open market and receive a big payday. Sale will be under the White Sox control through 2016.

I understand why the system is in place. There would be mass chaos if rookies and sophomores could hit free agency right away. Clubs spend so much time and effort developing prospects that it would be unfair if some other richer team could pluck their young players just as they're beginning to mature. Small markets teams would be screwed. For the most part, the system works pretty well.

But there could be some type of addendum to the rule. Take Mike Trout, for example. The guy had the highest WAR in years, exceeded expectations, and became a megastar and the best all-around player in baseball at age 21. In 2013, he's set to make $20,000 over the league minimum.

It's a safe bet that he's worth more than $510,000 to the Angels this year. Clubs shouldn't have to break the bank with guys like Trout and Sale; alteration would fix the issue. Baseball could increase the contract renewal figure to a little more generous number for exceptional young talent, namely guys who have accomplished something in the bigs.

The NBA included something in it's latest Collective Bargaining Agreement called the Derrick Rose Rule, which says that if a player starts an All-Star game, makes two All-NBA teams, or wins an MVP on his rookie contract, then he's eligible for an immediate raise (30 percent of the team's cap, up from 25 percent). It rewards players who outperform their contracts. Isn't that a good thing?

Obviously, baseball cannot enact something like this overnight; it will have to wait until the next CBA negotiations, set for the end of 2016. But this concept is something for baseball to consider.

For now, the Sox have one of the league's best values at about half a million dollars for 2013. Jesse Crain, meanwhile, will make about nine times that amount this year. Something is a little off.

 
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