Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Unraveling the new CBA: The draft and FA compensation

OK.  We have a new collective bargaining agreement.   So what does it all mean for the Cleveland Indians?  We'll start today with the biggest parts that impact the Indians: Draft and FA compensation.

Disclaimer: I haven't read it.   I am not a lawyer.   I have just read interpretations of what it means.  So, here goes:

General: Small market teams like Pittsburgh, Washington, Tampa Bay and Kansas City have decided that the most efficient way to build a franchise is to include investing heavily in the draft.  This includes leveraging extra picks and taking flyers on late round, high bonus demand guys who have fallen.  The draft is the single way left in baseball to obtain talent that is without competition from other teams.  You draft a guy and if he wants to sign he has to sign with you or wait another year (or 3) to be drafted.    Some of the new provisions really hurt the small market teams like the Indians.  Let's talk specifics:
What they did:

(a) Less free agents compensated: Actually, this helps the Indians.  They usually don't have high Type A free agents  and when they do they have recently traded them before free agency (something that will probably be done more often now) and now will be free to sign the lower Type A and Type B guys AND won't have their draft picks diluted by a bloated supplemental first round.   The only negative is that the Indians may get a little less value for their FAs-to-be as the receiving team can't get a draft pick for them. Still, this helps the Indians as many times it is the large market teams who rent players and then get draft picks for them, further bloating and slanting the draft towards large market teams.

(b) Offering an average of the top 125 salaries: Doesn't hurt the Indians as it is only the average.  They have historically offered just enough to not be able to sign guys like Thome, Ramirez, etc. but that was WELL above the average.

(c) Lottery picks for 10 worst teams:  If those picks were at the beginning of the first round, great.  But they aren't.  They are essentially supplemental  first round picks.  This won't help the Indians much IF they get one, which is not guaranteed...and they have to finish with such a bad record to get it that it isn't worth it.

(d) Draft spending cap:  This REALLY hurts the Indians big time.  Their 2012 draft would have been OK because Lindor and Howard signed for reasonable amounts.  However, flyer picks after that, like they did in the 2011 draft, would be almost impossible to do.  So you are looking at the 2012 draft (not very good for us) compared to the 2011 draft (best, on paper, in baseball at the time of the draft) in the future.  That is not good news.

(e) No major league deals.  This is a big plus for the Indians.  The major league deal Jeremy Guthrie got KILLED the Indians.  He only became a decent ML pitcher after he left the Indians after he was out of options.  As agents will now have to focus in other areas, this won't be a discussion point any more.

(f) Draft signing deadline: This helps the Indians as it gets players moving through their system quicker.  Yes, it helps all teams but the small market teams build from the bottom up.  Anything that helps that process makes them more competitive.

What should they have done: 

Give each team that has one of the 15 worst records (IF they have a losing record) an additional pick at the end of each of the first two rounds and each of the 10 worst records an additonal pick in each of the first 3 rounds and each of the 5 worst records an extra pick at the end of the first 5 rounds.  This gives the team with the worst record in baseball 10 picks in the first 5 rounds, the team with the 6th worst record in baseball 8 picks in the first 5 rounds and the team with the 11th worst record 7 picks in the first 5 rounds, and that is BEFORE any compensation picks they get.    This slants the draft heavily towards teams who can't and shouldn't compete for expensive free agents and makes them spend on the draft.  They obviously get cap room based on their extra picks as is present in the new CBA.  Also, there should be no draft cap for teams with the 10 worst records in baseball and an extended cap for teams with the 15 worst records.

Remove, entirely, the protection of first round picks.   The worst teams in baseball shouldn't be signing the best free agents and they usually don't. 

You can only trade draft picks IF you had a winning record the previous season and you can only trade draft picks for the next draft, not years down the road.

The signing deadline, free agent compensation, no major league contracts all are fine.  But it is the draft advantage that should have been leveraged to the hilt for small market teams.  This didn't happen and, for the Cleveland Indians, that is a real killer.

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