Consider the case of Player A and Player B. Player A debuted at 21 years, 230 days. Player B debuted at 21 years, 265 days. As a rookie, Player A slashed .288/.370/.396. As a rookie, Player B slashed .291/.368/.444. In Years 2, 3 and 4, Player A’s OPS+: 123. In Years 2, 3 and 4, Player B’s OPS+: 120. Player A’s fifth season was more of the same, while Player B won an MVP award. Player B’s sixth season was quite excellent, whereas Player A won an MVP in his.
Player A is going to make around $240 million by the time he turns 37.
Player B is going to make well over $400 million by the time he turns 37.
Player A is Christian Yelich. Player B is Mookie Betts. Either is a perfectly reasonable answer to the question: Who is the best player in baseball not named Mike Trout? And yet over the same period of time, Betts is slated to reap the GDP of a small country more than Yelich.
Baseball economics are a fascinating thing, and the decisions made early in a career can not only have a profound effect on individual earning power going forward but…