clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

MLB Owners Looking Into 'Tanking'

It's an issue that got some attention at the recent owners' meetings.

Rich Schultz/Getty Images

There really isn't any doubt, is there, that the Cubs "tanked" the 2012, 2013 and 2014 seasons?

They did it because under the current draft structure, it's beneficial to teams to finish at the bottom of the standings, to get better draft selections, in order to rebuild a declining team into a winner.

There's also no doubt that those "tanked" seasons helped the Cubs to the playoffs in 2015, because two of the three draft picks they made in those years were Kris Bryant and Kyle Schwarber.

The Cubs weren't the only team that got quick help through tanking. The Houston Astros "tanked" even worse than the Cubs did, losing 100+ games three straight years. That helped them get Carlos Correa (and they had selected George Springer before that), and those two players helped them back to the postseason in 2015.

Other teams seem to be aping this behavior. The Reds have been trading off many of the key players who helped them to the postseason in 2010, 2012 and 2013. They lost 98 games in 2015 and aren't likely to be any better in 2016.

This has owners concerned and at the recent owners' meetings in Florida, this topic was a major source of discussion:

If Major League Baseball decides to pursue an adjustment to the rules to deter teams from pursuing a tanking strategy, there will be an immediate opportunity, given the ongoing negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The current agreement expires in December. "It'll probably be addressed in some way in the collective bargaining agreement," predicted one ownership source.

There's no doubt that under the current draft system, with a money pool and slotting, that tanking seasons can help teams rebuild quickly. I was skeptical, as you know, that the Cubs could do it, but clearly, Theo & Co. knew what they were doing and it worked.

What kinds of things could MLB do to avoid teams tanking? A draft lottery comes to mind, although the draft lottery hasn't stopped NBA teams from tanking, and some of them for multiple tanked years in a row. Here's another idea:

I don't see how that would help all that much. What would you do, then, if a team finished with the worst record two years in a row? Give them the second pick instead of the first pick? Doesn't seem as if that would make that much difference.

So, I'm leaving it to you. It does seem as if there will be some major changes in the draft structure in the next CBA because of this -- never mind all the controversy over players affected by the qualifying offers this winter, which could result in more changes to the system.

Post your ideas in the comments.