New Agreement Includes Draft, Rule 5 Changes
ST. LOUIS --Overshadowed by more wide-ranging issues and the sheer euphoria of an
agreement between Major League Baseball and the Players Association
being reached with no rancor or threats of a work stoppage, the
structure of the new five-year Collective Bargaining Agreement
announced yesterday between labor and management did carry some
significant changes to baseball’s amateur draft and
alterations, ranging from a uniform Aug. 15 signing deadline to
compensation for unsigned picks, will change how both teams and
players experience the process, as well as how much and when money
The most notable
changes are those that deal with draft-pick compensation--both for
teams that fail to sign a high pick as well as those who lose major
league free agents in the offseason.
Teams that fail to
sign a first-round pick no longer receive an extra pick after the
first round as compensation, but instead a virtually identical pick
the following year; for example, a team that fails to sign the No. 5
pick one year will receive the No. 6 pick the next, rather than one
in the 30s or 40s. The same compensation also now exists for unsigned
second-round picks, while a team that fails to sign a third-round
pick will receive a sandwich pick between the third and fourth
The new system
should decrease the growth of bonus payments to amateurs, as teams
can walk away from negotiations with the reassurance of having a
similar pick the next year. (Although that compensation pick, if
unsigned, is not subject to compensation, which keeps clubs from
using it over and over.) Clubs have for years wanted a system of
prescribed, slotted bonuses for every high pick but learned early in
the negotiations that the union would not accept it, so instead
focused on stronger compensation rules.
"The concern with
clubs was to get that club that was drafting as much leverage that
they can have, so they can select the best player they possibly can,"
said former Cubs president Andy MacPhail, a member of ownership’s
negotiation team. To the extent that bonus offers will probably
either decrease or not grow as quickly because teams can walk away
more comfortably, union executive director Donald Fehr said, "It
will clearly have an effect. It will clearly not put (players) in the
position that they would have been in had slotting been accepted. You
have to find compromises."
One other change to
the amateur draft is a uniform signing date of Aug. 15 for all
players (other than college seniors), replacing the longtime and
clumsy deadline of the moment a player literally attends his first
four-year college class. In addition to creating some order for all
involved--from teams to players to college coaches wanting an
earlier idea of their incoming class--this also eliminates the
junior-college, draft-and-follow rule in which players who attended
two-year schools could sign with their drafting club until one week
before the following draft.
Several ideas that
have been discussed over the years, such as the trading of draft
picks and an either supplemental or combined draft of all players
worldwide, were not adopted. Also, the draft will continue to be held
in June rather than be moved to July.
"The changes in
the draft will help the teams in the bottom of the industry," MLB
CEO Bob DuPuy said, "because they’re getting better draft picks."
Some changes have
been made to the draft-pick compensation afforded teams which lose
major league free agents. Type C free agents have been eliminated,
while teams that lose Type B free agents, which had previously
received a pick from the signing club, will now get a
sandwich pick between the first and second rounds. (This was pursued
by the union to remove the disincentive for teams to sign those
players.) Those changes go into effect immediately.
The number of
players deemed Type A and B has been tweaked as well. Type A free
agents, whose former team continues to receive a first- or
second-round pick from the signing club as well as an extra pick
between the first and second rounds, will be reduced from the 30
percent of players (as determined by a statistical formula) to 20;
the Type B band is reduced from 31-50 percent to 21-40.
These changes will
take effect next offseason, allowing clubs which lose free agents
this winter the same compensation they had always expected. Teams
must still offer players salary arbitration to receive draft-pick
compensation, though the deadline for that offer was moved up from
Dec. 7 to Dec. 1.
The first-year player draft,
also known as the Rule 4 draft, was not the only draft process
altered by the new CBA. The major league portion of the Rule 5 draft
will be affected by giving teams one extra year to protect players
Rather than teams
being allowed three years (for players signed at age 19 or older) or
four years (for players 18 and younger) before leaving them off the
40-man roster subjects them to the Rule 5 draft, those periods have
been lengthened to four and five. Ownership considered this a
significant boost in their efforts to operate their minor league
systems more effectively.
"It gives the
clubs more flexibility with their roster," said MacPhail, who added
that the cost to select a player ($50,000) or get him back from the
selecting club ($25,000) remain the same.
"Anytime you can
give them more tools to operate as efficiently as they possibly can
is something we strive to do," he continued. "There are a lot of
kids at that stage where you’re just not quite sure whether you
want to get that clock ticking--the last thing you want to do is
take a talented 22-year-old kid who’s not ready and you develop him
for somebody else. Or often you’ll see guys taken out of A-ball who
aren’t close but they get plucked out of the Midwest League. You
try to let the developing clubs get as much time as they possibly can
to make the best decisions they can."
This rule applies
to this current offseason, meaning that many minor league players who
had expected to either be placed on the 40-man roster or be subject
to the Rule 5 draft will have to wait another year. The union did
negotiate a higher minimum salary for 40-man roster players optioned
to the minor leagues ($30,000 next year), but acknowledged that this
was a significant concession to ownership.
"That was one of
the major things we had to give up, no question about it--to me it
was the worst thing we had to give up," said Diamondbacks infielder
Craig Counsell, a player representative to the union negotiating
team. "Some players, especially immediately, are going to be hurt
by that--this year. But in the end, you have to give up something
to get something."