Still processing the CBA, draft changes

Posted By on November 22, 2011 3:48 pm

Been hearing a lot about the impact of the new CBA. Most of the stuff seems pretty straightforward, except the draft stuff, which, depending on who you believe, is either the best thing or the worst thing ever for small-market teams. I lean toward the latter, but I’m now not sure.

Since I posted my earlier item, in which I said it was decidedly bad, I’ve actually seen the terms of the agreement, and it’s more murky. I’ve changed my opinion because I think it’s possible that the penalties for overspending, a very harsh tax and the loss of draft picks, are sufficient to also slow down spending of the high-revenue teams. In that case, maybe it acts more like a hard cap or hard slotting.

(I happen to think a hard cap on spending is a good thing. Others disagree with this, because they think that all of these baseball players are just going to go play some other sport if they can’t get every penny out of MLB before signing. I disagree. I don’t think many players will be lost. The kind of impact talents we’re talking about are few and far between, and those who have the leverage of the ability to play at the next level in another sport are even more rare. And there’s no guarantee that any of those would pan out anyway. Remember Josh Booty?.)

The other interesting thing is that the draft allowance for each team will be based on its draft position, so the team that picks first (say, the Pirates) will have a much larger allowance than the team that picks 28th (say, the Yankees). That means it actually hurts the Yankees more than it hurts the Pirates to make an over-slot signing. In terms of real dollars anyway, not necessarily in terms of relative dollars.

Finally, I like the extra picks they throw in there for the low-revenue teams to get in a lottery. Even better, those picks can be traded. Say the Pirates get an extra pick, but they don’t want to pay the extra money for him, they can trade the pick to the Yankees for a current minor leaguer, whose bonus has already been paid, and whose projectability to the majors is easier to assess.

Anyway, I think there’s a lot about all this that’s going to require a wait-and-see approach. I am not sure it’s so easy to just say, right now, what’s bad and what’s good about the draft.

However, there are other aspects of the CBA that I can definitely say are bad or good. Mostly, it’s good, I think.

Good:

  • The signing deadline for the draft has been moved up to mid July, instead of mid August. That gets these draft picks playing much earlier, and gets them more development time.
  • The International Signing Pool thing looks good. Basically, the worse your team was last year, the more money you can spend on international players. Also, you can trade some of your money. That gives the worst teams the most flexibility to spend the money on players or trade the money for players. Say you have a $10 million allowance for international players, but you don’t want to spend any of it because the players are too risky and, frankly, you’d rather keep the $10 million or spent it on major leaguers. You can let the Yankees spend another $10 million of their money, and you can take some of their players in return. Win-win!
  • Playoff expansion, perhaps as soon as 2012. I’ve made it clear that I like the two wild-card system, and especially the one-game playoff, because it rewards teams that win divisions and because it adds two exciting all-or-nothing games every year. As I’ve said before, I think there is not much difference in the randomness of a best-of-seven than a best-of-one, but the latter is much more exciting.
  • More instant replay. We still don’t have calls on the bases, but we do have fair-foul and catch-no catch. It’s better than nothing. Plus, the more Bud Selig opens the door, the harder it’s going to be for him to prevent it opening all the way (short of balls and strikes, of course). As an aside, this will create some messy situations, when a catch/foul ball is reversed to no-catch/fair, and the umpires have to decide where the runners go. I don’t worry about that, because it won’t happen often, and we already have those situations when umpires have to place runners after a fan interference.
  • Players and managers are going to have to hide their tobacco on the field, and not use it all during interviews. That’s not as good as banning it, but it’s a step in the right direction. I’m more concerned about the message the tobacco use sends than I am for the players’ personal health. It is legal, so they should be able to use it. I just don’t think it’s good for them to use it in public. (You ever go to the bank and see a teller with a big dip in his mouth? Image is important in a lot of jobs.)
  • Players won’t be able to bail on the All-Star Game unless they are injured. It’s still possible that a lot of them will have some sort of “general soreness or fatigue,” but it at least sends a message that MLB feels it’s important they participate if at all possible.

Bad

  • The changed the Super Two threshold. Instead of the top 17 percent of the 2-3-year class, it’s now the top 22 percent. As it was, teams tried to figure out the system by keeping players in the minors just long enough that they’d miss the threshold after their third season. Now, they’ll have to keep them down even longer. I’m not sure if this means we won’t get to see top prospects till late June, instead of late May, or if teams will just decide that’s too long to keep a guy down for financial reasons, and they’ll just bring them up even earlier. I would have liked to see them just rework the whole process.
  • I was hoping to see them get rid of the stupid All-Star game determines home-field in the World Series thing. Doesn’t look like they did.

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