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MLB FA: Is Expansion the Key?

We’re just about set to begin playing spring training games in anticipation of the 2018 season and there are dozens of free agents still out there to be signed. And we’re not just talking middle-of-the-road guys, with some of these being among the best in the game at their respective positions.

The most glaring unsigned players hail are represented by agent Scott Boras, who has received some of the criticism for the slow going this offseason. But while some have pointed to agents expecting too much for their clients, others have said a correction in salaries is “needed”, despite the fact that MLB continues to grow in terms of revenues at a tremendous pace – to over $10 Billion in 2017.

The “obvious lack of money” owners are willing to spend (in part due to self-inflicted CB tax restrictions, which is convenient), has some people wondering if expansion could be the olive branch that both pads the pockets of MLB owners (in the form of $500M franchise fees), and of the players by creating 80 new MLB roster jobs and upwards of $200M in annual salaries (low end).

Then you add the opportunities players would have to earn AAA jobs, the increased affiliates in Milb – which has introduced recently and is seeing increased revenues on that front – and the coaching positions adding 2 teams would entail.

Let’s assume for a second that Montreal and Mexico City are able to earn franchises and begin adding players for 2018 (to get a feel for how it would impact FA).

Every franchise needs a “face of the franchise”, right? So, let’s put JD Martinez with Mexico City at $35M/season and Eric Hosmer with Montreal at $25M/season.

You know what, let’s skip ahead and make up both rosters completely from what’s left over in free agency at the moment:

Make belief Montreal Expos

Position Players



Make belief Mexico City

Position Players



Now, you may look at those teams and be somewhat impressed with the talent that’s spread out through those 2 expansion teams – and you should be. But here’s the cherry on the top – that still leaves us with the following as remaining free agents:

The point being that even with every team out there filled AND two expansion teams added, there would still be many free agent options out there looking for jobs.

Has MLB been unknowingly blocking out very high quality players by not going through with expansion earlier? And has this cost both them and the players millions in revenues year-after-year?

Possibly. Well, actually, almost certainly.

Expansion as an Olive Branch

Should MLB decide to throw that olive branch out to the players, it could very well bridge the gap between this ugly offseason for free agents and the next CBA negotiation, which may be a fairly contentious affair to say the least. But if players are able to reap the rewards that come from an extra eighty 40-man roster positions and salaries that follow, it could bring the temperature down enough to at least avoid a strike – something Montreal fans know all too well can really hamper a team’s fanbase and their commitment to MLB.

The addition of two franchises likely spending over $200M or more every season injects the money the players are looking for while the 30 MLB teams stand to benefit from being able to share $1B worth of franchise fees (just over $33M per franchise).

But that’s not all. Expansion also brings increased TV revenues, increased marketing, merchandising, a wider area coverage, and in some cases – rivalries that help amp up attendance.

Imagine the Toronto vs Montreal games and how well attended those games would be? Place those teams in the same division, and you have a very strong chance of getting 19 sellouts (or close to sellouts) each year. When you start the year with 12% of your games looking like sellouts, you’re in a good place.

Message to MLB – Expand ASAP. Oakland and Tampa Bay are a hair away from figuring out their stadium issues, and if either of them fall through, there are at least a foursome of outstanding options out there for MLB franchises anyhow (Mexico City, Montreal, Charlotte, and Portland leading the way).

Acting now could bring peace and relieve pressure within the pressure cooker that’s been the 2018 offseason, and could mean a return of the Montreal Expos, once and for all. But most of all, it would increase the revenues of all MLB stakeholders by a significant amount and stop the lost revenue opportunities that they’ve experienced over the last few years without expansion having taken place.


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