Passan: Baseball is obsessed with value — and it’s changing contracts forever

9

They’re killers. Two agents used the same word last week to describe this generation of baseball executives. It was meant as a compliment. Modern general managers are single-minded. Uncompromising. They spot weakness and exploit it. This is not personal, not some indictment on their character. It is what the job demands because owners believe it is how championships are built.nfl nike jerseys cheap china

For Major League Baseball teams in 2019, value trumps all. It is their lodestar. Every trade, every free-agent signing, every draft pick, every international amateur — every single transaction in baseball can be commodified. Run it through a proprietary computer system, receive a value. And if the value happens to be negative? Well, there better be an awfully compelling reason to make a move with negative value.

The sabermetric revolution wrought a value-worshipping machine in front offices that for decades operated on a combination of gut feelings, snap decisions and antiquated conventions. Players’ motivations are not nearly as blinkered. Some do prioritize money and proper valuation above all. Others, like Albies, do not.9

And so when the Atlanta Braves secured seven years of his services at that $35 million with options for two more seasons at only $10 million total more, this unprecedented run of extensions — in which teams over the last two months committed more than $2 billion to players already under contract — found its flashpoint. All of the behind-the-scenes chatter among agents and executives, the inside-baseball stuff that peppered discussions about larger economic issues, burbled to the surface in one remarkable deal for a 22-year-old second baseman.cheap nike nfl jerseys paypal

In his first full season in the major leagues, Ozzie Albies made the National League All-Star team, whacked 24 home runs, played Gold Glove-caliber defense and ran with the stealth of a wise veteran. He established himself as, at very least, an exceedingly capable second baseman. If he develops — if his left-handed swing catches up to his right side, if his plate discipline improves, if his natural leadership skills flourish — Albies is the sort of player around whom a killer can build a championship-caliber team. The last 21-year-old, switch-hitting second baseman with 20-plus homers was … no one. Albies was the first.

There are, of course, unique players all across baseball. It’s just that those of Albies’ ilk, whose combination of age and skill make them exceedingly valuable to teams, are expected to extricate that value. Not just for themselves but for their fellow members of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Because MLB is not a capped sport and players don’t receive a fixed portion of revenue like the NFL or NBA, baseball contracts often rely on precedent — and a precedent is only so good as someone who cares to set it.