Last month, Keith Law had an interesting article about how the new CBA punishes low-revenue teams like Royals (or the Mets?) for trying to win under tight financial constraints.
Unfortunately, it’s an ESPN Insider subscription-only article, but I will share one part of it that kind of encapsulates the full thrust of his entire argument.
The problem for teams like the Royals and other low-revenue teams under the new CBA is that there’s a strong disincentive to win unless you make the playoffs.
The Rays, Pirates and Cleveland will all suffer in the amateur market next year, but at least get a revenue boost from making the postseason — revenues that they can’t spend freely to acquire talent in the draft or among international free agents, of course, but at least revenues that help the major league team retain talent.
The Royals, on the other hand, will likely see a small revenue boost from having a winning record this year, but not the larger bump that comes from making the playoffs, yet they will also see a lower draft bonus cap, a lower first-round pick (which is no longer protected), and a lower international bonus cap, all as a “reward” for doing what low-revenue teams should be doing: building from within.
The new CBA almost punishes low revenue teams that try to compete but ultimately fall short. As long as that dynamic is in play I believe it will ultimately lead to a greater chasm between the haves and have-nots.
For teams who want to focus on building from within and allocating more resources to the both the draft and the International arena, it’s not as easy as it once was. The spending caps in the new CBA will prevent the turnarounds we have seen with the Pittsburgh Pirates, Tampa Bay Rays, Kansas City Royals and to some extent the Washington Nationals. As Law points out, neither of those teams can follow the same approach under the new system.
Then throw in the fact that some high-revenue teams now have an incentive to tank late in the season to improve their draft standing and increase their bonus pools. The poor get poorer and the rich keep getting rich. I’m pretty sure the whole purpose of this was to prevent that from happening, but instead it’s only aiding it.