Atlanta Braves arbitration win one of many forcing MLB to rethink arbitration

 Atlanta Braves starter Max Fried denies any ill will over the arbitration process.
Atlanta Braves starter Max Fried denies any ill will over the arbitration process. / Dale Zanine-USA TODAY Sports
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MLB commissioner Rob Manfred is under pressure from small market teams to end arbitration / Orlando Ramirez-USA TODAY Sports


The union has good reason to support a system responsible for raising player salaries across the board since 1973. The union would consider any change that increased salaries overall, but nothing MLB proposed does that.

WAR: This Isn’t What It’s Good For

During last year’s CBA negotiations, MLB proposed a plan to base raises on performance measured by WAR, and service time, with free agency starting at 29 1/2 years of age.

The last requirement doomed the proposal before the ink was dry because so many more players enter the league at 19 or 20 today. The idea of basing performance on any flavor of WAR or an average of the different flavors of WAR will never fly for a few reasons.

  1. All flavors of WAR use weighted values in the formula – formulas, formulae, never mind – and each formula includes data from another weighted formula.
  2. The owners can change the formula anytime they want. A few years ago, Baseball-Reference revalued existing WAR numbers because of changes to the formula. Fangraphs internal metrics in their version and changes them when they discover new data.
  3. Players are viewed differently by each flavor of WAR, skewing results to a metric controlled by an outside source.
  4. The websites mentioned want no part of it. 

After the union rejected MLB’s proposal to create a fixed salary level based on years of service time and performance based on WAR, an MLB spokesperson explained why they wanted to change it.

"“We continue to believe that the salary arbitration system creates unnecessary acrimony between Clubs and players and wastes an enormous amount of time and money. We would welcome the opportunity to discuss changes to the system.”"

MLB could develop a new version of WAR; I’m sure the union would embrace it . . . by the throat until it ceases to exist.