Group Created with Sketch.
Volume 24 No. 219

Leagues and Governing Bodies

Moustakas will earn less than he made in '17, even if he maxes out on $2.2M in performance bonuses
Photo: GETTY IMAGES

Royals 3B Mike Moustakas signed a one-year, $6.5M contract to return to the team, some $80M "less than projected," and the MLBPA is using him as an example to show the "integral flaws of free agency" under the new CBA, according to Bob Nightengale of USA TODAY. Moustakas' agent Scott Boras said, "The system failed Mike Moustakas. If you're going to withhold players for three years at the minimum salary, offer them an artificial value in arbitration for three more years, and there is no reward at the end of that, then you realize the quid pro quo no longer exists" (USA TODAY, 3/12). Boras: "We always want demand for the best. This is about players, players who are excellent, players who are All-Stars, and [Moustakas] has delivered in all." THE ATHLETIC's Rustin Dodd wrote MLB's free agent system had "led to" Moustakas "saying yes to a deal that will pay him less than he made" in '17, even if he maxes out on $2.2M in performance bonuses. But Dodd wrote Boras "misjudged the market," and Moustakas "lost nearly" $10M in the process. Yet Boras "questioned the 'integrity of the current system, mentioning 'intervening factors' that had mucked up his client's market" (THEATHLETIC.com, 3/11). ESPN.com's Buster Olney wrote it "became apparent" on Friday that Boras "lost to the market, in a rout." In the past, Boras "tarried and anticipated that the market for talented clients would eventually develop." But this year, that "did not happen." The players who "lingered on the free-agent market," like Moustakas and Rockies RF Carlos Gonzalez, who on Thursday agreed to a one-year, $8M deal with the club, have "mostly been crushed after leaving money on the table" (ESPN.com, 3/11). 

PLAYER EVALUATION: MLB Network’s Carlos Pena said, “This is just a culmination of the paradigm shift, and it's been extremely difficult for many players to understand that the market has changed and that teams are evaluating players differently now. They're okay with just passing on some of the stars that we expected were going to get huge contracts this year, so it's very difficult to swallow" (“MLB Tonight,” MLBN, 3/9).

START OF SOMETHING NEW? The WALL STREET JOURNAL's Jared Diamond wrote Cardinals SS Paul DeJong this offseason "made a decision with potentially far-reaching implications for the entire baseball industry." He asked his agent to "approach the Cardinals about a long-term contract extension now forgoing the usual years-long path that leads to free agency." Young players "trading away the opportunity to maximize their earnings for increased job security happens occasionally." Front-office execs "like these sorts of arrangements because they give teams cost certainty for an extended period and access to a player’s prime at a reasonable price." Players who agree to them say they "ensure generational wealth early in their careers and only delay their chance at free agency by a year or two." As contract talks progressed, the MLBPA "consulted with DeJong to ensure that he knew the pros and cons." A source said delaying free agency "could be a decision that costs a player tens of millions of dollars." The source added that the MLBPA has "concern 'on a lot of different levels' about contracts like DeJong's, especially if evidence surfaces that the sluggish free-agent market might inspire more players to sign them." The source said, "The unfortunate part of many of those contracts is that the players don’t fully understand what they’re getting in exchange for what they’re giving up" (WSJ.com, 3/9).

After the NBA, NFL and FIFA all jumped into esports, it was "inevitable that the NHL would as well," and to get it right, the NHL has "decided to keep it simple," according to Greg Wyshynski of ESPN.com. The NHL's version is "not the massive 6-on-6 tournament many EA Sports Hockey League players were hoping for, nor is it a 31-team league that would mimic the NHL." Ducks RW J.T. Brown, who is one of the league's most prominent esports players, said, "The biggest thing is getting it right the first time, and making sure that the format is set up correctly. All the rules need to be set. They have to make sure it goes fluid the first time." Wyshynski noted maneuvering through the esports space is "a lot like a video game itself: They could end up collecting countless coins and raising the victory flag, or they could fall off a cliff and it's game over." Wyshynski: "Why make this a one-on-one tournament, when one of the appeals of esports is team play?" NHL VP/Business Development Chris Golier said the league "wanted to have everybody play and be eligible. Finding 3-on-3 and 6-on-6 teams was too cumbersome." NHL CRO & Exec VP/Global Partnerships Keith Wachtel said, "What we wanted to do, and this is a little bit different than everyone else, is to be as inclusive as possible. This is a participatory vehicle for us. We're making it extremely simple. It's a test-and-learn phase for us." But a survey of 40 active online hockey gamers found the "majority of them preferred 6-on-6 or 3-on-3 games." Meanwhile, Wachtel said that the NHL is going to "attempt to spotlight the personalities in its tournament." As it reaches regionals, the league's TV partners are "going to do features on the remaining players." Wachtel: "This is going to be a player-driven opportunity for us" (ESPN.com, 3/9).

ALL ABOUT GROWTH: The AP's Stephen Whyno noted the NHL's hope is to "land new fans and connect with current fans in a different way." Esports also might be a way for the NHL to "grow its audience in China, where it is already broadcasting regular-season games and hosting exhibitions" ahead of the '22 Beijing Games (AP, 3/9). The CP's Neil Davidson noted as virtual sports grow, real sports "want in on the action." The NHL sees the virtual hockey tournament as just its "opening esports salvo, with member teams likely to develop their own esports opportunities down the line." But in organizing the inaugural world championship, the "aim is to allow as many people to get involved as possible" (CP, 3/9).

For more coverage of the business of esports, visit our partners, esportsobserver.com.