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A Theoretical and Empirical Comparison of Free Agent and Arbitration-Eligible Salaries Negotiated in Major League Baseball


  • Phillip A. Miller


This paper presents a theoretical and empirical comparison of determination of negotiated salaries in baseball’s free agent market to that in its final-offer arbitration (FOA) system. The theoretical bargaining model of each system is based on Nash (1950). It is argued that Farber’s (1980) model of FOA is not fully applicable in explaining baseball’s FOA process. The free agent market and the arbitration system each determine negotiated salaries that are dependent on the different disagreement outcomes of the negotiators in the respective systems. It is thus concluded theoretically that the two systems will determine salaries differently. The theoretical analysis also suggests that there may be selection bias present when one empirically analyzes only negotiated settlements. Using a straightforward regression model that controls for productivity, playing experience, and the potential selection bias, the empirical analysis substantiates the theory’s results. A method is then developed to estimate the effect that free agent salaries have on salaries for arbitration-eligible players. It is found that there is a significant positive relationship between them, but the systems do not determine equal salaries for comparable players.

Suggested Citation

  • Phillip A. Miller, 2000. "A Theoretical and Empirical Comparison of Free Agent and Arbitration-Eligible Salaries Negotiated in Major League Baseball," Southern Economic Journal, Southern Economic Association, vol. 67(1), pages 87-104, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:sej:ancoec:v:67:1:y:2000:p:87-104

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    Cited by:

    1. Pelnar, Gregory, 2007. "Antitrust Analysis of Sports Leagues," MPRA Paper 5382, University Library of Munich, Germany.

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