New CBA Hides Gems Among Its Details

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At Baseball America we have a passion for baseball in general, but individuals also have their own particular passions.

J.J. Cooper enjoys delving into independent leagues more than anyone who isn't on an indy payroll. Matt Eddy loves player transactions and their related rules and procedures, while John Manuel has more passion for international competition than many countries' national federations.

One of the things I enjoy is delving into the minutiae of baseball's legal documents. I suppose it's a holdover from my reporter days, combing through search warrants or lawsuits to uncover enough tidbits to make a story.

While the details of baseball's documents aren't nearly as salacious, they can be just as illuminating. For example, I remember finding the provision in the Professional Baseball Agreement (the contract between Major League Baseball and Minor League Baseball) that provided the framework for the Futures Game. Exciting stuff!

So the most recent renewal of the Collective Bargaining Agreement—the deal between MLB and the Players Association—was naturally of interest when it became official soon after last year's World Series. And it became even more interesting when it featured such significant changes to the draft, not to mention the signing of international amateurs.


Because the CBA is so complex, however, the actual document did not become public until months later, after lawyers had an opportunity to polish it up. And the draft changes are actually described in detail in the Major League Rules, not the CBA itself.

The first draft under the new rules, in fact, took place before the full version of the rules was public. Teams had a detailed description of the rules they were operating under, of course, but we did not.

At long last, however, the revised version of the Major League Rules is available, and now that the season is over I had a chance to comb through them. I didn't find anything earth-shaking, but there were plenty of entertaining details and tidbits.

For example, now I know that if a minor league team wins its league championship, the minor league franchise is responsible for providing postseason awards, such as championship rings, to players and field staff. And I learned that when a player agrees to a scholarship plan with a team, the team can pay for a variety of college-related expenses but not umbrellas or typewriters, among other things.

Most of the interesting detail comes in the description of the new aspects of the draft, however. We have already written about these repeatedly in Baseball America, and the most important deal with the assigned bonus values for each pick in the first 10 rounds, the bonus pools for each team created by those values, and the penalties teams incur for exceeding the pool limits.

One notable detail I had forgotten is that the tax money teams pay when they exceed their bonus limit is pooled and then distributed to baseball's smaller-revenue teams, similar to revenue sharing. In the first year of the new rules teams will pay $1,588,193 in taxes on their overage.

That comes from a 75 percent penalty applied to the bonuses that exceed a team's limit. Several teams were willing to go over their bonus thresholds by 5 percent because the only penalty was monetary. Beyond that, however, teams could lose their first-round pick in the next draft, and no team wanted to do that.

Teams that benefit from the draft tax money also benefit from the new competitive-balance lottery, which adds six picks after the first round and six more after the second. The Royals won the first competitive balance lottery in July.

Where those picks will end up is still subject to picks affected by free agent compensation, which is also significantly different now and will result in fewer supplemental picks. Also, if a team loses a draft pick for signing a free agent now, that pick will not go to the team that lost the player. The pick will simply go away.

If a pick is forfeited as a penalty for exceeding bonus limits, however, it doesn't just go away—it's awarded to another team through a lottery system. While there wasn't a player that made teams willing to consider that penalty this year, what happens when the next Bryce Harper comes along, a once-in-a-decade talent with a hardline agent? Will a team be willing to not only lose a future first-round pick and pay a hefty fine but also hand a first-round pick to another team? Inevitably it's going to come up.

We've barely scratched the surface on all these details—did you know the document has a special provision that puts the Athletics with the small-market teams until they get a new stadium for purposes of the competitive balance lottery?—and haven't even started to explain all the new international rules. So pardon me, I've got more reading to do.