MLB: How franchise tags can fix arbitration, save baseball

NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark speaks during a press conference on youth initiatives hosted by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association at Citi Field before a game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 16, 2016 in the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 6-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images)
NEW YORK, NY - JUNE 16: MLBPA Executive Director Tony Clark speaks during a press conference on youth initiatives hosted by Major League Baseball and the Major League Baseball Players Association at Citi Field before a game between the New York Mets and the Pittsburgh Pirates on June 16, 2016 in the Queens borough of New York City. The Mets defeated the Pirates 6-4. (Photo by Jim McIsaac/Getty Images) /
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(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images)
(Photo by Mark Brown/Getty Images) /

MLB Year 6: The Salary Based Franchise Tag

This time around, salary trumps talent when it comes to determining what an MLB player would make under the franchise tag.

Closely mirroring the NFL approach, a team choosing to block a player from free agency for just one year would have to pay that player the average of the top five salaries in the league. And sure, just like in the NFL, some language would have to be included that says a player can’t make less under the tag (NFL players get a 20% raise if being tagged results in somehow making less than they did last year). This time pulling from Spotrac and Baseball Reference, the following roughly approximates what a player would earn in 2022 under the sixth year tag:

  • Catcher                        $ 15,655,000
  • First Base                   $ 22,013,334
  • Second Base              $ 21,570,000
  • Third Base                  $ 28,914,285
  • Shortstop                   $ 25,120,000
  • Right Field                  $ 23,674,359
  • Centerfield                 $ 18,316,666
  • Left Field                    $ 24,623,333
  • Designated Hitter    $19,670,000
  • Relief Pitcher            $14,866,666
  • Starting Pitcher        $37,133,333

Obviously, this is a more expensive proposition for MLB clubs to grapple with. Every position sees a significant raise, with salary at least doubling in five cases. The required starting pitcher salary is particularly staggering. While one can probably squint and make a case for about ten players being worth it at all of the other positions, you’d be hard pressed to find even five starting pitchers you’d feel comfortable paying nearly $40 million for. Really, all around the horn here, the majority of front offices would balk at that sixth year sticker price.

Fortunately, that’s exactly the point…