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Saturday, March 2, 2024

MLB Controversy Has Big Implications for Player Salaries

  • MLB will give out ten-game suspensions to pitchers doctoring the ball with "sticky stuff."
  • The crackdown has already had ripple effects across baseball.
Robert Hanashiro-USA TODAY Sports/Design: Alex Brooks

Baseball’s next crop of free agents has had their market values thrown into flux.

Major League Baseball is threatening 10-game suspensions for pitchers caught using “sticky stuff,” a category that encompasses everything from sunscreen to Spider Tack, a substance initially designed to give weightlifters more grip. 

MLB is hoping the crackdown will shrink the league’s record strikeout rate of 24%, and bring more offense and action to a game that is losing ground with Gen-Z

Pitchers in line for big deals in the offseason could have their market values reevaluated, as teams may seek to avoid pacts like the New York Yankees’ nine-year, $324 million 2020 contract with Gerrit Cole. Cole strongly implied he uses Spider Tack last week.

  • Trevor Bauer, who has both called out other pitchers and implied he uses grip enhancers himself, will have to decide at the end of the season whether or not to opt out of the remaining two years of his three-year, $102 million deal with the Los Angeles Dodgers. He also has an opt-out after 2022.
  • Washington Nationals ace Max Scherzer, who is suspected of using a sticky substance, is in the final season of a seven-year $210 million deal. 

The new rule may have already had unforeseen consequences: Tampa Bay Rays’ ace Tyler Glasnow could miss the rest of the season due to an injury he blames on the tighter grip he used after forgoing his mix of sunscreen and rosin

As an arbitration-eligible player, Glasnow will almost certainly have lower salaries in 2022 and 2023 as a result of the injury.

MLB’s handling of the issue is ratcheting up tensions with players ahead of the upcoming collective bargaining negotiations, which could reshape players’ earning power for the next decade.

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