Tanking is one of the most popular ways to build a baseball team in todays game, but, is it actually good for the sport?
Tanking is to purposely lose to earn draft picks for the future, and to better build your team down the road, in exchange for being terrible in the present, and each year around the league there are about four or five teams a year that commit their season goal to doing so. The idea is that, by trading off players for prospects, teams get younger with talent waves coming more and more frequently. Add the top draft picks into that equation, and a team can get a relatively stacked team built up for future years in two to three seasons.
Tanking is a method that has been proven to work as well. Both the Astros and the Cubs went through years of 100 loss seasons and eventually build their rosters up with enough starpower to win a World Series. Both of those teams drafted well, used free agency to their benefits, flipped those free agents for prospects, and traded from their original teams to get where they are today, atop the league with a lot of talent, and perennial threats, proving that the method can be effective.
However, though it might work, losing on purpose reaps many disadvantages. Money is not pulled in as much, because teams will lose the viewership of the casual fan. Naturally, die hard fans of a team will tune in no matter what, but those who watch casually quickly lose interest in teams that struggle to win 50 of 162 games. Without that, ticket sales and TV revenue will go down. On top of this, some veteran and role playing free agents will not be as likely to sign with these bad teams, as they know they have little to no chance for a winning season.
So what could a good middle alternative, of putting a good team on the field, and tanking at the same time? This offseason, the Miami Marlins are showing the most successful way to tank, and it’s to do just the opposite. The Marlins have traded from their MLB team for prospects each of the last few years, and have built up quite the farm system. However, the already small Marlin fanbase has continued to dwindle with the teams performance, and the Marlins front office needed to draw them back in. They have done this by adding cheap, but still durable veterans on MLB contracts for 2020, like second basemen Jonathan Villar and first basemen Jesus Aguilar. This upgrades the team in the short term, and the long term, as these players can be flipped for more young prospects at the trade deadline in July.
While many teams do tank in the MLB, losing as much as possible is not always the best way to do it. By signing and eventually trading veterans and just aiming for somewhat high draft picks, teams can become superpowers while never being astronomically bad.