I would like to see a scaled approach to the base cost inflation for players each off-season.
If I find a young, talented prospect for $1, but if it takes him 3 or 5 years to start producing then I’m looking at a $5-$10 base cost (without any arb increases) by the time he really has a chance to pay-off. The cost could be much higher if I got him with a competitive FA bid (usually around this time of the season owners are actively auctioning off low-level prospects and June draftees for prices that sometimes reach double-digits). There’s virtually no point in doing this, other than maybe trying to entice another team to overspend on a ‘keeper’ player whose base cost will be unaffordable by the time the player’s ready. So after a couple years of holding onto this player, due to his inflated cost, I decide to release him back to the draft- hoping to re-acquire him for cheap, only to get outbid by another owner- and then there goes all that hope and investment and time and ‘scouting’ I just put into that player, even though I was the one that ‘found’ him first.
I think this current system impedes the ability for owners to build around cheap, young talent and causes the arbitration process to make-up for the inflationary costs of players who should have larger increases than the base inflation while taking away from allocations as a more strategic use of a manager’s off-season. Because of the current $2/$1 (MLB/MiLB) increase for all players, no matter how well you build a roster it’s incredibly difficult to keep any player- let alone a core group of players- for even just three years. So rather than building around young, cheap, future talent, the strategy is in finding young, cheap, and right-now talent- and there’s only so much of that available in any given year/draft.
I propose a scaled method of the base inflation cost increases as a fix to this problem. For example, if you consider the ottoneu player pool of 12 Teams x 40-Player Rosters = 480 players, then take half of that pool every year and increase the costs of the Top Scoring 240 players (and, if possible, dividing it down to 120 Top Scoring Hitters & 120 Top Scoring Pitchers). Then take that population and break it down further- say, the Top 2.5% scoring players (players ranked 1st-6th in scoring; or 1-3 for both Hitters and Pitchers) increase by $5; the Top 10% (players ranked 7th-24th; or 4-12 for Hitters/Pitchers) increase by $4; Top 20% (25th-48th; or 13-24 Hitters/Pitchers) increase by $3; Top 40% (49th-96th players; or 25-48 scoring players for both sides) increase by $2; and the rest of the players (97th-240th; or 49-120 scoring Hitters/Pitchers each year) increase by $1. All other players would have a $0 base increase, but since all players are still eligible for arbitration allocations then any manager can decide to inflate another team’s top prospect rather than pouring arb dollars into players who “should” have cost increases based on their output from the prior year.
This method makes for a total base increase of $414 for the 480-player pool of each league, before arbitration allocations. Comparatively- and I’m not sure of the exact numbers, but if you assume each team ends the year with 35 MLB players ($2 increase) and 5 MiLB players ($1 increase), making for an average $75 total base cost increase- the current system adds $900 in base costs for the 40-man rosters of each league. So, this idea cuts over half of the average base inflation costs in the current system- but even if that $900 was simply re-allocated more effectively among the better-performing players (even if it means that all players increased by only $1, in addition to a scaled base inflation system), this would still help to cut-down on the over-inflated cost of young cheap talent.
Teams ought to be able to better build around cheap/young talent over multiple years without having to account for the over-inflation of the base costs for the bottom-end/rebuilding part of the roster. The additional level of inflation through the arbitration allocation process would still allow for owners to make more measured and strategic decisions with their allocations, so if anyone thinks a Top Prospect with a $0 base increase should still have some cost increase before he starts to really have fantasy value then ‘the market’ can better make that decision.