Jonathan Singleton's contract and the hypocrisy of the MLBPA

The MLBPA and some players are upset with Jonathan Singleton for signing a team-friendly extension. Maybe they should look at what they've done to incentivize Singleton to do this.

Jonathan Singleton signed a five year contract with the Houston Astros that guarantees him $10 million over five years, and could be worth $30 million over eight years.  This is a unique deal, in that Singleton had no major league service time at the time the deal was struck, though he has now been called up -- a move the Astros apparently wouldn't have made if Singleton had not agreed to this deal.

The contract is seen as very team friendly, and has players/agents/the MLBPA upset.  A couple of examples:

So if this is "terrible," if this is a "disaster deal," then why would Singleton sign?

Well, let's look at a couple of things...

First, here's Jeff Passan, tweeting on the breakdown of the contract:

I'm not sure whether the $1.5M this year is pro-rated (in other words, he actually gets $1M, because we're one-third of the way through the season) or whether he actually gets the full $1.5M this year, but either way, it doesn't really matter.

Singleton wasn't a multi-million-dollar bonus baby.  He was an 8th round draft pick that got $200,000 to sign.  Prior to this season, Singleton probably never made more than $2000 per month while playing in the minors.  Singleton would have made more this year, since he was on the 40 man roster, but he's still looking at just a few thousand dollars per month.  Dirk Hayhurst recently wrote a piece about the money that minor leaguers -- including Singleton -- make.

Even once Singleton made the majors, his salary was going to be limited for 2014, 2015, 2016 and 2017.  The Astros weren't going to call Singleton up until they were sure he wasn't going to be arbitration eligible until 2018.  So Singleton was going to make a pro-rated $500,000 in 2014 -- once the Astros called him up, which wasn't likely to be for another month -- and then $500,000 per year (with nominal raises) for 2015-17.

Instead, Singleton is getting $1.5 million this year, and $2 million guaranteed from 2015-17.  That's not an insignificant difference, particularly for a player who didn't get a life-altering signing bonus, and who has stuck in the minors making peanuts for several years.

Yes, there's a tradeoff involved.  If Singleton is just a decent player, he'll be underpaid in 2018, 2019 and 2020.  If he's an above-average player or a star, he'll be very underpaid.  But Singleton was willing to take that trade-off, not just to guarantee himself the $10 million payday, but to ensure that he's getting to access those funds now, rather than having to wait four or five years for an uncertain return.

I'm not saying I would have necessarily done that, if I were Singleton...but I'm not saying I wouldn't have done it, either.  I understand why Singleton made the decision he made.  Its a result of the system that Singleton is stuck in.

And the MLBPA is complicit in creating this structure.  The MLBPA has conspired with MLB to cap signing bonuses, has agreed to delay when a player can start receiving fair market value, has turned its back while minor leaguers under team control are paid little in the way of compensation.

Jonathan Singleton signing this deal is a direct result of the MLBPA's choosing to marginalize amateur players and young players, making it hypocritical of the MLBPA, or the players, to rip Singleton for agreeing to this deal.  They either need to acknowledge that this is a foreseeable consequence of the structure they've agreed to put in place, or they need to lobby to change that structure the next time the CBA is up.

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