Several weeks ago the Players Union and MLB got together to set their new guidelines and some major changes were made. There was much buzz about the playoff system being expanded, and instant replay was (finally) also under the microscope. At the end of the day life is good if you’re an MLB owner or a star player. There is no salary cap and revenues have been consistent through these tough economic times. Maybe not astoundingly so, but you don’t see lockouts and public discrepancies over fractions of a % in revenue.
If you paid enough attention to the affect the new CBA will have on the way you construct your on-field product, than you are likely concerned moving forward. The new regulations on the draft are stringent, and if they were a baby there’s no doubt it would have Bud Selig’s smile. The commissioner has been pushing for some time now to limit teams draft spending, and he was finally able to drop the hammer on the process by creating strict rules on going over slot recommendation. Normally everyone would laugh off the “rules” if they were solely based on financial penalties because big-market teams would usually just ignore them and go on with their business, but these new rules aren’t going to be broken. Bud had a mission to make this the new format going forward, and he achieved that this winter.
What’s the big deal you ask? Small-market teams will just have a fair shot at the premium talent now! Well, not so fast. The reason most of the premiere athletes in the country went to baseball over football, basketball and other sports aside from the love of the game WAS financial. If you’re talented enough, you’re more likely to sustain a longer career in baseball and likely make more money over the course of your career in baseball. Premium talent were
receiving massive signing bonuses and if you were good enough, you just might get a big league deal right out of the draft, which would speed up your arbitration status and also allow you to make more immediately. Now with the new CBA, this may not be the case and I think that we will all feel the ramifications in 2020 when the Matt Kemp’s of the world are wearing shoulder pads rather than baseball gloves. The player isn’t to blame, their advisers aren’t to blame, their family isn’t to blame and their agent isn’t to blame. If this does what I think it will, we’ll all look back and say Bud was to blame.
The idea was to create less disparity between teams with greater financial resources and teams who do not, or in some cases choose not to use their income to reinvest in the product on the field in the way they should from a fans perspective. Some writers believe that this will provoke players to attend college ball instead of coming right out of high school. I disagree. I believe two things will happen:
1. The supremely talented players will come out into the draft from high school because they will accomplish two things: They will hit arbitration sooner, and there’s potential for them to get two big contracts in their life rather than one. It’s a gamble, but guys like Bubba Starling are special enough that it’s a calculated risk.
2. There will be even MORE of a premium on free agents. Players coming out of the draft have essentially no leverage with the new CBA. There will no longer be an excuse by smaller market teams to not use the revenue sharing dollars because there will be a great deal of cost certainty. The draft pick compensation also changed, so it’s likely that teams with resources will spend more money on free agents due to the fact that you can’t improve your team as quickly from the ground up. If a team decides it wants to “re-build”, they’ll be forced to go years with a terrible product on the field, and the likely financial implications associated with that.
In the end, there will be a ton more pressure on scouts than there already is. Teams will not be able to afford “missing” on a first round pick. Conversely, a team that gets lucky and has a string of good picks in a row will have a massive advantage. So if you’re a young aspiring scout, now may be a good time for you to get involved in the industry. Just remember the little people over here at Seedlings to Stars when you make it to the bigtime!
Bill King is a graduate of Bridgewater State University where he majored in Journalism and Public Relations. He can be found working in the marketing and advertising industry out of Providence, RI. He is a columnist at Seedlings to Stars, part of the FanSided network. He also founded MLB-Perspectives, a blog dedicated to general MLB news and analysis. Bill was a finalist for CBS Boston’s 2011 Most Valuable Blogger, and can be found on twitter @MLBPerspectives