Setting the Record Straight on American Association Transfer Fees
American Association Daily provides insights, features, and recaps of the action from around the American Association of Professional Baseball League, as well as player and coaching profiles and transactions. In today’s edition, Robert Pannier provides an update, including correcting some errors, on his article he wrote on transfer fees in the American Association.
Truth Before Ego
Nine years ago, I started the Minor League Sports Report as a fun way to cover sports. To be honest, I did not know a great deal of minor league sports. I was a Major League guy, but that began to change when I was tasked with covering a St. Paul Saints game for another publication and got to enjoy the competitive play of the Saints and Sioux City Explorers game that night. It was a lot of fun and Saints broadcaster Sean Aronson was unbelievably accommodating.
A few days later, I started the MLSR and made promoting the American Association and its players and managers my main priority. I have written over a hundred feature articles and have completely cast aside my interest in MLB, the NFL, the NBA, and even the NHL to a large degree.
My goal became to tell the story of players and managers, even owners and executives, while also giving a look at teams and their performance. One will find that of the over 7,000 stories on the site, maybe a handful have been critical. That is not normally my style.
However, there have been some, including my thoughts on the American Association transfer fee. I wrote about this last Sunday, advocating on behalf of the players and league, wanting to ensure that the American Association is the best baseball league in America. To write this article, I consulted or received information from over four dozen people. Some I have known for years. My information was sound, at least I believed, but that proved not to be the case in all instances.
Part of telling a story and advocating for others is having all the facts. That was clearly not the case for me in this instance. There were key pieces of information of my story that were missing or mischaracterized. Therefore, it is important for me to set the record straight. I do not want the league I love to be seen in a bad light because of my faulty information. It is more important to be correct with my facts than it is for me to be right. So, this article addresses where I have fallen short.
Just the Facts!
Entering the 2022 season, American Association owners opted to change the transfer fees for Major League Baseball teams to purchase the contracts of players to $15,000. The league had seen an incredible number of players whose contracts were transferred last season. While that was exciting for players, it occurred almost to the determinant of the American Association.
The talent level was clearly not the same. However, that was not the reason for increasing the fee. It was a recognition that there is a lot of work and expense that American Association teams put into signing and coaching a player. There is value in what the league provides and an increase in the fee was a recognition of that value. Simple laws of supply and demand.
One of the challenges the league faced was that the agreement with Major League Baseball bans them from increasing the fee once the season has gotten underway. Therefore, if the market was like last year, the American Association could not benefit from the increased number of signings. It only made sense to go with a higher fee.
In addition, the American Association was not the only league who opted to make a change. Both the Frontier League and the Atlantic League also raised transfer fees to $15,000. In the previous article, it was initially reported that the Atlantic League was going to reduce their fee but, upon further reconsideration, opted to stay at the $15,000 fee.
At the All-Star break, owners from the American Association had a discussion related to MLB transfers. The original article provided an account where owners discussed reducing the fee, but this report was erroneous. After further investigation, it was discovered that the league only discussed the number of players who had been signed but the subject of the fee was not addressed at all. To ensure that the most accurate details are provided, it was important to include this clarification.
The Numbers Are Down
The number of players whose contract has been purchased since the beginning of the season is far fewer than what was seen in 2021. In fact, only 10 players have had their contract transferred since the beginning of the season while seven others have headed for Mexico.
This is not surprising. There was an expectation that last year was a bit of an anomaly. Plus, organizations are settling in under the new parameters of only having four minor league teams and their rookie clubs. Thus, there is not as much of a need from any of the three top-tier independent clubs. This is a factor that is playing a part in a lack of player signings as well.
Josh Schaub and Josh Buchholz at the American Association Commissioner’s office also recognize that teams did not have an opportunity to budget for this increase in fees. While $15,000 may not be an issue for teams like the New York Yankees or Los Angeles Dodgers, it is for the Arizona Diamondbacks and Oakland Athletics, teams with far less revenue. The Commissioner is already proactively taking the steps to ensure that this does not become an issue for next season and beyond by working with Major League Baseball and their management.
While there appears to be some hesitancy from Major League Baseball clubs in paying the increased fee, it should also be noted that the league is entitled to a fee commensurate with what other leagues are requiring. Managers and coaches do a very effective job of helping to give players a second, third, maybe even a fifth chance of returning to an MLB affiliate. That deserves compensation and, with both the Frontier and Atlantic Leagues requiring this amount, $15,000 seems to be the going rate.
My initial goal in writing the article was to speak for players, wanting to ensure that they have every opportunity possible to return to a Major League organization or to get their very first shot of playing in an affiliate club. My facts were not all correct, and my fervency and passion cannot mitigate my mistakes. Hopefully, this clarification ensures that the American Association and its owners are presented in the proper light while also giving fans a clearer picture on this issue.
By Robert Pannier