CBA Winners And Losers
One thing is constant amid the change. Whenever Major League Baseball alters the draft, there will be unexpected side effects. Adding a signing deadline for the 2007 draft, for example, led to agents and players waiting until the last minute of the deadline to sign, as they found the longer they waited, the more money teams were willing to pay.
Some of those unexpected consequences won't become clear until MLB conducts its first draft under the new rules, but even before the final wording for the draft rules has been approved, there were some clear winners and losers.
Teams That HAVE Stuck To Slot:
In the past, teams with owners willing to get a scolding from the commissioner's office had a clear advantage in the draft: Go over slot and sign talent that was unavailable to teams who couldn't or wouldn't go over slot. It also meant that players could try to manipulate which team would draft them. A high asking price could mean that a player slipped past some clubs to a team willing to spend more.
Now, teams who have been limited to slot are scouting from the same pool as everyone else. There still may be high school players whose asking price makes it risky to draft them, but that risk will be shared by all clubs—not just teams that tried to stick to slot recommendations.
That's good news for the White Sox, who always rank among the draft's stingiest spenders, and the Mets, one of the few big market teams who usually stuck to slot. It also could help the Dodgers and Astros, although ownership changes could alter their spending approaches.
Short-Season and Rookie Leagues:
The Aug. 15 signing deadline was supposed to give teams leverage to hold down bonuses. It did nothing of the sort, as it actually provided players leverage, as teams want to sign talent. But MLB's decision to restrict teams from announcing above-slot deals until right at (or after) the deadline meant that most first-rounders (and numerous later-round picks) had to wait until the following season to make their pro debut.
That has significantly diminished the talent in the Appalachian, New York-Penn, Northwest and Pioneer leagues. Once the starting points for many early-round picks, the Rookie and short-season leagues have seen a lot more fifth-year seniors and undrafted free agents in recent years as teams had to fill roster spots. The earlier signing deadline will mean most draftees will actually play the year they are drafted.
The Aug. 15 deadline meant that college coaches had to play a waiting game as well. Just days before fall semester begins, coaches would learn the fate of their top recruits. When it comes to first-round picks, coaches could operate under the assumption that the player would sign, but it was the later-round picks that left college coaches unprepared. If a college coach lost a player he expected to have in school at the signing deadline, it was too late to do anything about it. The new rules will make it much easier for college coaches to assemble their rosters. The earlier signing deadline will also allow coaches a little more time to try to fill in any roster holds created if a player unexpectedly signs with a pro club. The restrictions on bonuses could mean more top high school talent finds it way to college as well.
For years, the commissioner had wanted to put more limits on draft spending. While the old voluntary slot system proved largely ineffective at holding down bonuses, most in the game believe the new system will have more significant effects in reducing the growth of bonuses, both in the draft and internationally. And he did so without having to risk a labor stoppage.
Teams That Go Cheap Internationally:
For teams that don't spend much money on the international market, there is now a reward for such frugality. Teams will be allowed to trade part of their international signing allowance to other teams. For teams whose ownership limits them to spending significantly less than the $2.9 million they will be allotted in 2012, the new trade market will allow them to turn nothing (money they wouldn't have spent anyway) into something of value.
College Juniors And Seniors:
Last year, many teams seemed to realize that for most college juniors, teams hold much of the leverage. The result was a number of players ended up signing for less than they may have expected coming into the draft. Going forward juniors face a difficult choice if they don't like the dollars a team is offering: sign for the lesser amount or go back into the draft as a leverage-less senior, where the contract negotiations largely consist of listening to what teams are willing to pay you.
Under the new system, high school players still have significant leverage. A high-round high school player can head to junior college or a four-year college and re-enter the draft again later on, while a team who fails to sign a high-round pick knows that they lose that money from their signing allotment. The balance of power appears to shift to the clubs with college juniors and seniors. Yes, the team will lose that amount of money for that year's signing budget, but if it's an early enough pick, they will get a replacement pick in the following year's draft. The player could lose hundreds of thousands of dollars if he opts to go back to school. The best way to put it is that for teams, there's a draft every year. For players, there are very few shots at a big payday.
Under the old system, teams could reduce the risks that came from drafting a player with a high price tag in the early rounds by taking a similar player late in the draft. If your negotiations with one fell through, you moved on to negotiating with the other player.
The new rules make that impossible. If you struggle to sign a high-round pick, that money can't be used to sign a 15th-rounder instead.
"With our first-round pick, we've always had a Plan B. Everyone does. With this (new system) I don't see what Plan B is," one NL scouting director said. "You've given the agent a lot of leverage. We can tell you right now, we'll sign our first-round pick."
The new restrictions of signing bonuses for international players will not go into effect until July 2, but once they do, they could significantly affect the amount of money younger Cuban defectors receive. Under the new rules, any international players 23 or younger are subject to the international bonus limits, which will limit teams to an average of $2.9 million in signing bonuses a year on the international market. In recent years, Aroldis Chapman (a $30 million major league deal) and Leonys Martin (a $15 million major league deal with a $5 million bonus) are two of numerous examples of players who would receive significantly less money under the new rules.
Club officials wouldn't be surprised if the trickle of Cuban defectors turns into a flood in upcoming months in an attempt to sign before the new rules go into effect.
Successful large-market clubs:
Much of the initial angst about the new CBA centered around whether it would harm small-market teams like the Pirates and Royals who currently spend big in the draft.
For small-market teams, there are several aspects of the new CBA that should help make up for any downsides of the new deal. Teams finishing near the bottom of the standings will be able to spend significant sums on their first-round pick. The reduced number of supplemental first-round picks will ensure their second-round pick is a higher pick than it is under the old system. And then there is the competitive balance pick lottery that will give unsuccessful and small-market teams a chance at 12 extra picks (six after the first round and six after the second round).
The news is not nearly as good for successful large-market clubs. Under old rules, a team could spend throughout the draft, landing multiple top talents who fell because of signing demands. Large-market teams were also able to work the compensatory pick system to land numerous supplemental first-round picks by offering arbitration to free agents (something teams with smaller budgets were less likely to do). Because of that, several large-market teams have managed to rank among the draft's biggest spenders despite picking at the end of the draft.
Under the new system, successful teams will have a significantly smaller draft allowance than teams picking at the top of the first round. And the reworking of compensatory picks will reduce the number of supplemental picks. Add in restrictions on the amount teams can spend on international talent and teams like the Red Sox and Yankees will be severely limited in how much they can spend.