Monday, April 12, 2010

Do Small-Market Teams Have to Outbid Big-Market Teams?

CC photo from Keith Allison.

While I was at Thursday's Nationals-Phillies game (datamine that, Nats tickets office!), a thought occurred to me.

Competition in baseball is biased in favor of the richest teams, who have more resources to bid for the services of free agents, in a sport without a salary cap. But the advantage goes even further: in some cases, a small-market club would have to offer more money than the big-market club for the offers to be equally appealing.

Two offseasons ago, Mark Teixeira signed an eight-year, $180-million deal with the Yankees. Teixeira, a native of Annapolis, MD, reportedly had similar offers from the Nationals and Orioles, who both had finished in last place in their respective divisions the season before.

Being the man for the Nats isn't nearly as cool as being the man for the Yanks. Three games into the season, half of the seats are filled at Nationals Park, and many of those are people rooting for the other team. Meanwhile, being a Yankee means playing in front of sold-out crowds at home and on the road and receiving endless media attention and frequent national television exposure.

Even if money is the only concern, there's no doubt that Teixeira could earn more endorsement money playing in the New York market than he could anywhere else. Clearly, the Nationals would have had to offer much more than $180 million to be taken seriously.

Perhaps this logic only applies to star players. A marginal player may be smart to take an offer from a small-market team, where he can play everyday and hone his skills.