Originally posted on Raise the Jolly Roger!  |  Last updated 11/23/11

MLB announced its new CBA (Collective Bargaining Agreement) on Tuesday. While you’ll hear from officials about how great it is that baseball won’t have labor issues like the NBA or NFL…there won’t be much celebration coming from Pittsburgh.

The main talking point is the draft, and penalties that MLB is implementing for teams that spend heavily in the draft. We all know the team that has spend the most in the draft over the last four years…….your Pittsburgh Pirates. MLB will assign a value to each team’s pick in the first 10 rounds to calculate a “Signing Bonus Pool.” The more teams outspend the amount, the more they’ll be penalized:

  • Overspend by 5% or less: 75% tax on excess amount
  • Overspend by 5-10%: 75% tax and loss of next year’s first round pick
  • Overspend by 10-15%: 100% tax and loss of next year’s first round AND second round picks
  • Overspend by 15% or more: 100% tax and loss of next year’s AND the following year’s  first round pick

Crazy. These penalties are extremely severe and will almost surely prevent any more big bonuses after the first round (making any more Josh Bell-type deals incredibly unlikely). It will also make it increasingly difficult to sign any elite talent , even in the first round. If a superstar top pick is demanding a huge amount that’ll put some team way over the pool amount, the team will either have to give in, pay a tax, AND lose valuable picks (likely at the top of the draft) in future seasons…or else pass on the stud player. That means you’ll see a lot less high school players signing with teams and more going to college.

This obviously hurts the Pirates (along with other smaller-market teams that build through the draft) a ton. The draft is the only reasonable way these teams can acquire top talent. We’re very well aware that it’s incredibly difficult for these teams to sign big-time free agents and trade for superstars (or build up the resources to do so). That is annoying and unfair, but the draft has at least given these teams a shot–see the Brewers and Rays. The new CBA places an enormous limitation on that.

The ridiculous thing is that teams don’t get penalized for enormous payrolls until they exceed $178 million…yet the Pirates spending less than a tenth of that this year made everybody mad and likely prompted these changes. The reasoning behind the change is simple from both sides in power: owners don’t want to have to pay draft picks much, and the players association doesn’t include future draft picks (obviously)…and of course current players don’t want high school kids getting paid more than veterans.

Frank Coonelly doesn’t seem to be upset – he points out that rich teams like the Yankees could have easily spent like crazy in the draft all along, which is true–although obviously they haven’t. I would counter by pointing out that the Yankees could still easily pay a player they want since the penalties wouldn’t hurt them as much as teams like the Pirates – the Yanks will always be picking towards the back of the draft, so losing the 30th overall pick isn’t a big deal…and they obviously have the money to pay the tax.

After all that, MLB seems to be attempting to throw a bone to the smaller market teams by creating a lottery for the 10 worst teams and 10 lowest-revenue teams each year, and giving six of those teams an extra sandwich pick. Too bad they won’t be able to spend anything on that pick…

So…that’s all terrible.

Here are the other notable parts of the new CBA, most of which are not terrible (see all the changes here):

  • The draft signing deadline will be moved up to mid-July instead of mid-August. That’s a good thing.
  • International signing budgets will be limited, but after next year worse teams will have larger budgets. Portions of the budgets will be tradeable. There are similar penalties to the draft for teams that exceed their allocated budgets.
  • All players will be subject to hGH testing beginning in 2012.
  • Players, managers, and coaches are prohibited from using or carrying smokeless tobacco during interviews and appearances, and must “conceal” tobacco at all times after the gates open for a game.
  • No new players will be allowed to use those low density maple bats that shatter all over the place. Somewhere, Greg Brown is thrilled.
  • By 2013 all players will have to start wearing a new helmet that protects against 100 MPH pitches.
  • Instant replay will be expanded to fair/foul and “trapped ball” calls. There should be more, but that’s a step in the right direction.
  • There’s now a new “Social Media policy” for players.
  • Participation in the All Star Game will be required barring injury or commissioner permission.
  • As I mentioned earlier, the Astros will move to the AL West meaning there will be season-long interleague play. There will be an additional wild-card team in each league, with a one-game playoff determining who advances to the division series (this will be implemented in 2013 at the latest, and 2012 is still a possibility).
  • Rosters can be expanded to 26 players for doubleheaders
  • Free Agent compensation will change quite a bit–no more Type A/Type B stuff. Instead, teams will get compensation for players that stayed with the team the whole season and are offered a one-year contract worth more than the average of the top 125 salaries in the league. Should the player decline and sign elsewhere, his former team gets a sandwich-round pick and the signing team loses a first round pick (unless they pick in the top-10, then they lose a second rounder instead).
  • The minimum salary will increase slightly, and more players will be eligible for Super Two arbitration (arbitration after two years instead of three).

Got all that?

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©2011 Raise the Jolly Roger. All Rights Reserved.

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