Balance Is The Key To The New CBA

An article by posted on November 30, 2011

While details about the new CBA are still coming in, it seems one thing is quite apparent about this new deal. It was an exercise in balancing the inequities in the league.

It starts off by balancing the AL and NL to have the same number of teams. While this does not appear to have much of an effect on team building it does balance one of the inequities inherent in the interleague play that has existed. In the past Interleague scheduling was more based on location and regional rivalry where a team like the Mets had to face the Yankees every year while their competition would or could face lesser teams on their schedule. Now there will be one Interleague game per day and it means more NL teams will have to face the Yankees than just us. How this new scheduling plays out Is yet to be seen, but it does appear to be a step in the right direction as far as interleague is concerned and it does open the possibility to balance it later by adding two expansion teams (one to each league) if it proves to be a problem later on. Then they could go back to targeted interleague matchups if they don’t like what they did.

Where the new CBA seems to do its best balancing act though is in regards to spending. For a few years now the league has limited what the big Free Agent spenders could spend via the Luxury tax that is imposed when you go over a certain spending threshold. The inequity here was that teams that were willing to pay to win would help subsidize teams that were not willing to spend to win. Most of the tax money that was distributed would usually be pocketed by the subsidized teams instead of re-invested. A team like KC or Tampa Bay probably had 10-25% (maybe more!) of their payroll paid for by their share of the luxury tax. The MLBPA has always had an issue with this system not because it limited the salaries that a free agent could get (it did not do that) but because the teams who got the money refused to spend that money on other free agents.

This leads us to FA Compensation and slotting.

These non-spending teams would instead stick to their draft first approach and use that money to go over slot to select a player who would one day net them two more draft compensation picks – hopefully. All while keeping their payroll artificially low. Usually, they may trade these players during their arbitration years and get even more in trade value while maybe lucking out with 2-3 solid competitive seasons.

The changes to the compensatory process will help curtail the practice of letting good players go to collect more cheap draft picks. These NON-SPENDERS will no longer be able to fill their roster with a constant flow of more than normal picks and be forced to enter into Free Agency and spend to fill their roster.

The MLBPA will gain the most here because for one, Free Agents won’t have their offers artificially lowered to compensate for draft losses and two, teams who previously stayed away from free agency and opted to preserve or accumulate picks, will now need to spend.

The Current CBA seems to balance out those who spend in Free Agency and those who spend in the draft and International market.

Draft Slotting was an unenforceable attempt at limiting how much Rookies would get to sign. Most teams did not comply. The Yankees would spend more on Draft picks just as they would spend more on Free Agents. So it never stopped them, and teams who were not big players in free agency and were draft focused gladly went over slot.

What the new CBA does is remove the ability to pay rookies a large bonus so that these players can no longer hold up a team for ransom. I personally don’t think it goes far enough or will work, but it is a decent start. Those first rounder’s will still demand above the slotting guidelines and the end result will be lower draft picks will pay the price for that in what they get as a bonus. The new Tax on rookie signings only applies to the first eleven rounds. What we may see is that the early picks get the same high bonuses, but teams will be unable to sign kids from rounds 6-10.

What it does successfully accomplish though, is balance the process for those who are in the middle of the pack.

The “Have’s” always had the ability to spend and the “Have not’s” could because they didn’t spend anywhere else. Neither side had anything to lose by paying more. It was those teams in the middle who were willing to pay free agents and draft in combination that were hurt the most by the over slotting.

Over slot has always affected the middle round drafters more than the top and bottom round drafters. The guys at the top were worth paying more for and the players selected at the bottom had little leverage.

The top round pickers were usually bad teams, were getting the best players, and had a vested interest in paying more. The bottom rounder’s who were winning teams already, could easily pay over slot whenever they wanted to

The middle round picker’s now will have a built-in excuse to tell their picks, “sorry, we can’t give you more than slot because we need to sign all our picks.” We will see how well that actually works for them.

What is significant though is that many teams will not go too far over slot because of the New Tax plus the possibility that they could lose future picks as well. As many as two consecutive first rounder’s could be forfeited which will certainly curtail the bottom feeders a lot more than the spenders.

A better change to the draft rules might have been to penalize a player who refused to sign by having him sit out “X” number of years before they could re-enter the draft. Once they did re-enter the draft, a comparable pick would then be given to the team that originally drafted him as compensation the following year. This would force these rookies to say “hey if I want to play in the MLB I had better take what I can get or look for some other job”.

Some have pointed out that this new CBA will discourage some athletes from choosing baseball over other sports. I don’t buy this argument at all. The average career in football is 4-5 years. Baseball is usually 10 years or more especially if you’re an above average player. I don’t see anyone choosing football over baseball considering that only the top 5% of football players actually make the big bucks under their league’s salary cap limitations. Not to mention the the added bonus that in baseball you will still have the ability to walk when your 60 years old as opposed to needing a cane by the time your 40.

It is important to note that the biggest complaints about the current CBA comes from both ends of the spending spectrum. The low spenders complain it will hurt competitive balance and the big spenders complain that they will now have another TAX to deal with that makes successful/profitable teams subsidize those who refuse to spend even WITH their collected tax dollars going to them.

You know what that says to me?

This CBA is pretty damn good, And VERY good for BOTH SIDES and baseball in general…

It would appear to shift the balance of spending big or not spending at all, to the middle where it should be.

Free Agents will not be allowed to leave as easily as they have been due to less of a return in picks and you’ll see lower market teams finding ways to keep their stars. It also limits the ability of spenders to take the non spenders or middle spenders out of the IFA market as spending in those areas are also limited, taxed and compensated. It will stop teams from playing market inequities and put them more on a level playing field.

Players will make more, reasonable spending teams will save money in more areas and the draft picks will not be an exercise of shooting craps hoping the kid you picked will sign with you. Non spenders will have to spend more to fill their roster and large spenders will not be able to cut everyone else out of the valuable IFA market or drive up the price on draft bonuses the way they have in the past.

What it does is put more focus on good evaluation over money. You will no longer be able to cheap your way or spend your way to success. And that can only be a good thing.

Does the new CBA go far enough towards this goal? Perhaps not but the fact that the two spending extremists seem the most unhappy about it says to me it is a step in the right direction.

Now I personally don’t like some parts of this new CBA, expanded playoffs being chief among them. But as far as fixing the financial inequities that have been exhibited in the league I think it does a pretty good job in trying to create spending parity as opposed to what we have seen.

Small market teams will complain they have to spend more but maybe they will also see that spending more will draw more fans into the stands. Maybe some are not as small a market as their spending and current attendance would suggest.

Large Market teams will be limited further in how they can throw money around and cherry picking the league’s top stars.

And it finally takes some of the power away from rookies that should be going to players who have worked hard to get to the MLB only to be discarded in favor of some kid who hasn’t proved himself yet.

It will be more about WHO you spent it on, not how much you spent. Evaluation over Valuation will be the order of the day.

The only ones who will be hurt the most are the players who were using HGH to make themselves better, and the teams whose entire plan was based on rebuilding using the inequity of not spending in the name of collecting multiple draft picks.

Sorry Sandy, it looks like you’re going to have to go back to the drawing board.

This Fan Shot was submitted by Mike (Metsie). Have something you want to say about the Mets? Share your opinions with over eleven-thousand Mets fans who read this site daily. Send your Fan Shot to GetMetsmerized@aol.com.

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