Here's what Major League Baseball can learn from soccer

If you’re an American fan of European soccer, you have spent at least some time pondering what it would be like if sports on this side of the Atlantic featured a promotion/relegation system. It’s an interesting thought exercise, full of pros and cons, and highly unlikely to ever be seen here because of the high level of financial security that all teams enjoy in the current system.The aspect of Europe that would make a lot mor

e sense for America to borrow is on full display this week, with the final hours before soccer’s transfer window shuts on Wednesday. For the uninitiated, while baseball teams scramble to make last-minute, waiver-cleared trades before the end of the day on Wednesday to finalize their playoff rosters, soccer teams whose seasons have just begun are finalizing their rosters in general until another window opens in January to gear up for the stretch run.MORE: The worst in-season trades for every American League team Trades do happen occasionally in soccer, and can happen across oceans – the most recent swap of particular note was American striker Jozy Altidore going from Sunderland in England to Toronto FC in MLS for Jermain Defoe. Far more common, though, is movement for straight-up cash, and lots of it. Paul Pogba went from Juventus to Manchester United this summer for a fee of $117 million, the highest transfer fee ever, and a figure that does not include a cent of the player’s salary.Under the transfer system, teams must agree to compensation for a player, and the player must agree to a new contract with his new team. Having such negotiations in-season would be just as unusual to the sports culture here as the idea of moving away from player-based swaps.The benefit to players is obvious: instead of being able to be traded at an executive’s whim to some team on the other side of the continent, movement requires consent and comes with the benefit of more money. There is further benefit to minor leaguers, who would be able to keep working their way toward the majors with a greater feeling of stability, rather than worrying about being sent away so that the parent club can acquire a new star.For teams looking to acquire talent, the upside is equally clear. Instead of facing a question of whether to pillage your own farm system to get help for your team now, it’s just a matter of paying out dollars. Obviously, this is better for the Dodgers and Yankees than the Marlins and Pirates, but the current system of free agency has shown that there are always bargains to be found, and the new contract portion of the transfer system means big-spending teams get locked into deals with players who can quickly become surplus to requirements or prove to be bad fits – just ask Mario Balotelli of (for now) Liverpool, basically the Yasiel Puig of soccer.MORE: Yasiel Puig isn’t thrilled with Triple-A lifeThe loser in this system, then, should be the teams selling off talented players, but if you look at the rate of success over the years of teams getting bundles of prospects in exchange for stars, those teams already have been the losers, by and large. Large amounts of dollars would allow for investment in either prospects or established talent, providing different options for teams to reconfigure themselves after a selloff.One effect of moving to a transfer system for baseball would be a massive change to free agency, which would become the realm of players who have reached the end of their contracts. These players would figure to command higher salaries on the open market because of the lack of compensation required for acquisition – think of the way qualifying offers have impacted some free agents in recent years, and the relief felt by some players at either not receiving one or being traded as rentals to avoid being eligible.Owners, assuredly, would never want to give players the level of control that they enjoy in a transfer system. It’s too bad, because it is a much more organic form of revenue sharing than what currently exists, rewarding teams not only on the basis of their market size, but how well they run their teams and develop talent before having to sell. It would be fascinating to see here, if management ever came around to an idea from Europe that is far less of a threat to their operation than promotion and relegation would be.


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