I hope everyone had a glorious Thanksgiving. Here in the Dominican Republic, we do not celebrate the holiday. I went out for Italian food on Thursday instead. For that I am thankful, and I am thankful for the new labor agreement hammered out between Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association. These sneaky mothers got the deal done and announced a few days before Thanksgiving, when most of us are checked out mentally at work and/or fighting for the last frozen Butterball at Safeway. So you may not have noticed it.
If you’d like to read the CBA, here’s the full, legal-ese text, here.
I will take a crack at analyzing and offering my opinion of some of the deal’s details. This is not a comprehensive analysis. Instead, my focus will be on my specialties: the Draft, the minors, and international baseball.
Overall I’m impressed with the deal. It’s not perfect, but it addresses major areas of concern for the league. It also includes positive things I never thought I’d see, and unfortunately a few things I think are silly and/or useless. To be honest I’m surprised by how much I don’t hate this new labor deal.
If you’ll afford me a Thanksgiving pun, here’s the turkey meat and mashed potatoes of the agreement.
The First Year Player Draft (aka the Rule 4 Draft, although I’ve never heard anyone call it that) received the most changes of any component mentioned in the CBA. You’ll probably argue with me that the change to the Wild Card format and moving a team from the National League to the American League is a bigger deal, but that’s because those things are more visible than the Draft. The Draft recieved a much needed major overhaul.
The system as we know it is basically kaput. No more Type A and B free agents. The slotting system has been completely changed. The signing deadline has been moved up from mid-August to mid-July, floating around the date of the All-Star Game. The closest thing we’ll see to a salary cap in MLB has now been implemented.
I love it. I love all of it. Let’s take a look.
Teams can still get compensation picks for losing a free agent player, but those picks are now only awarded if the free agent player spends the entire previous season with his club. No more mid-season trades netting picks via arbitration offers. Not that the Giants could have had that this season, Carlos Beltran. (Bitter? Me? Nah.) Top 10 picks are protected. If a team’s first round pick falls within the Top 10, the next highest pick will become property of the team owed compensation.
It’s a lot clearer on who gets what this way. Frankly the Type A and B business was annoying because we had to wait to find out who gets what. The whole process was shrouded in mystery.
Each team now gets a Signing Bonus Pool (capitals courtesy of the MLB CBA text) and each pick in the first 10 rounds of the Draft have been assigned a value, subject to the “rate of growth of industry revenue.” The pool is based on the sum of the values of each team’s picks in the first 10 rounds of the Draft. From round 11-50, players chosen don’t count in the pool if they recieve bonuses under $100,000. That’s fairly typical. I can’t recall a guy after round 11 getting a big bonus. However if one of the rounds 11-50 picks is offered a bonus over $100,000, the excess money will count in the team’s pool.
Here’s where the fun begins. If a team goes over their pool amount, penalties will occur. And it’s not just luxury taxes. Pool excess penalties over 5-10% will cause the team to lose a first round pick, and the penalties increase exponentially from there. If a team goes 15% over their pool amount, they are subject to paying 100% tax on the overage plus losing first round picks in the next two Drafts.
The carbon credits system of taxing the Yankees and Red Sox is finally gone. Who gives a rat’s patoot on spending too much if you can spend more to make the problem go away? This correction is the best part of the new CBA.
The only thing I’m not clear on is the exact amounts of the pools for each team. My philosophy is it’s better to spend $13 million on amateur talent to beef up your system versus $100 million on a bloated free agent contract. I like the bottom-up approach of building a club. We’ll have to see if that will be adversely affected here.
Another important component of this pool system feeds into the other major addition to the CBA. There will now be a lottery for top picks, available only to low revenue and small market teams. These teams (up to 20 as far as I can tell from the CBA’s language) will be eligible for six draft picks following the first round of the draft–the sandwich round essentially. Poor records form the previous season will boost the team’s chances of landing one of these picks. If a team does not get one of the first round lottery picks will be entered in a second round sandwich lottery, another six pick situation also determined by winning percentage.
Also to avoid any issues with drug use (Jeremy Jeffress) and injuries (Barret Loux), the top 200 prospects in each Draft will be subject to pre-Draft drug testing and medical programs.
Ladies and germs, I think we’re inching closer to an international Draft. Language in the CBA states that by the middle of next month, an International Talent Committee will be formed to “discuss the development and acquisition of international players, including the potential inclusion of international amateur players in a draft or in multiple drafts.”
That could mean they meet for tea and play Tiddlywinks while discussing the issue. It could mean they actually hammer out a deal. I don’t know how these things work. But the CBA also contains language that holds international signings to a similar signing bonus pool to the new Draft standards, starting with the 2012-2013 season. The international signing season typically kicks off around July 1. The penalties for going over the pool amounts on international signings are just as tough as the Draft penalties. They bar teams from offering big bonuses to international players if a team goes over 15% of their allotted pool.
This is more significant than the Draft penalties. A handful of teams run the big money signings in Latin America. However, it doesn’t take one $3 million contract to be a force in the system down here. The Pittsburgh Pirates are one of the most active clubs in the entire international market by signing a bunch of guys from all around the world, and I expect them to adjust accordingly to the new standards and continue their success. The signing bonus pool will also be based on reverse order of winning percentage for the prior year.
As with the Draft, the top 100 international prospects will be subject to drug testing and all international players must register with the MLB Scouting Bureau to be eligible for the Draft.
Perhaps the best thing I’ve found here in my research on baseball is that MLB is doing a ton to help Dominican players develop off the field as well. I wrote a few articles about development programs for my internship, about community involvement and education for prospects. These, among sereval other MLB programs, help prospects finish their high school education and prepare them for life after baseball. I’m working on another article on the Reviving Baseball in Inner Cities (RBI) program in the DR, specifically how the girls’ programs help young Dominican women.
The new CBA seeks to add educational and vocational programs for all international players, to help them transition to careers after baseball. It also includes better health coverage for international players and their families.
MLB may be coming to a country near you…at least, a country where it’s never been before. The new CBA has plans for teams and players to visit countries where “games have not been staged in the past.”
Obviously I love this. I can see them doing a tour of Africa, much like the goodwill tour that Curtis Granderson and Dusty Baker went on a few years ago. European destinations like the Netherlands, Italy, and Spain (countries with top Euro baseball teams), Asian destinations like India, where cricket produced Rinku Singh and Dinesh Patel, South America and getting in touch with the large Japanese-Brazilian population down there…the possibilities are endless. Good thing I got my passport in May. I hope MLB will take me along for the potential ride.
Other details in the CBA are less important to me, but I want to touch on another one.
The CBA says, “Non-discrimination protections based on sexual orientation were added to Article XV.” Does this mean gay players will be compelled to come out? Will it protect the hypothetical gay player from ridicule, abuse, and prejudice from fans, his teammates, and the media? Not at all. But it’s a pretty big gesture that holds the league accountable for standing by gay players if and when they face problems because of their orientation and for rectifying any grief the players receive. I’m proud to be an ally and even prouder to be a baseball fan today with this added to the new CBA.
Finally, the detail I am most thankful for with this deal is that it was ratified through 2016, giving us five more years of uninterrupted, peaceful baseball. After the NBA and NFL lockout nonsense this year, this deal is a welcome change. I don’t know about you, but every time ESPN reported that nothing had changed in either the NBA or NFL negotiations felt like 60 of my brain cells dying. Per minute. I’m very thankful we can skip a potential hot mess with MLB.
I knew it was too easy. My journalism soul mate, Kevin Cunningham, tapped me on the shoulder to point out something I missed. Says Kevin:
If a team signs a free agent that demands compensation, the team that lost the free agent does NOT get the signing team’s pick. According to III.a.2.D:
D. The Player’s former Club will receive a selection at the end of the first round
beginning after the last regularly scheduled selection in the round. The former
Clubs will select based on reverse order of winning percentage from the prior
That’s right…compensation is a sandwich round pick. So what happens to the picks that the signing team forfeits?
According to III.e.4:
4. Proceeds generated by the tax will be distributed to payee Clubs under the Revenue Sharing Plan that do not exceed their Signing Bonus Pools. Draft picks that are forfeited by Clubs will be awarded to other Clubs through a lottery in which a Club’s odds of winning will be based on its prior season’s winning percentage and its prior season’s revenue. Only Clubs that do not exceed their Signing Bonus Pools are eligible for the lottery.
So there you go. It doesn’t make any sense to me either, so don’t worry. I think it’ll be easier once we see it all in action.