The MLBPA had held out for so long in not selling out those entering the league. That all changed in recent weeks.
Tuesday’s newly announced CBA doesn’t technically cap draft spending, but it will severely punish any team that exceeds MLB’s proposed slot caps. Teams that go 10 percent over slot will be taxed by 100 percent that amount and lose future first- and second-round picks. Teams that go 15 percent over slot will face the same tax and lose two future first-round picks.
The CBA also eliminated major league deals for draft picks, which might well have allowed teams a workaround for giving prospects extra bonuses.
MLB owners now have pretty much the draft they’ve already wanted. Reportedly, there are even provisions to go to a worldwide draft by 2014, cutting further into the already reduced bonuses Latin American prospects are now facing.
For baseball as a whole, this is a gloomy day. Yes, labor peace is nice. So is having the best talent possible playing in MLB. Part of what made baseball so tempting for two-sport athletes all this time is that they can cash in right after high school. Now that the bonuses are going to be smaller, the next Carl Crawford or Matt Holliday may well opt for football. Also, it’d be no surprise if we start seeing the occasional high-profile Latin American prospect and major league draftee choose to begin his pro career in Japan.
And where will that extra money go? To Juan Rivera, of course. It’s players like Mark Ellis, Rod Barajas and Javier Lopez that will take advantage. That middle class of free agents, whose portion of the pie had gotten smaller as the last decade went along, is starting to see a big rebound now. Those teams that blanch at the idea of spending $20 million per year on a superstar never see the problem with spending $4 million-$5 million per year on a player who might be 10 percent better than a guy making the minimum.
Which is great for the MLBPA, as it’s presently constituted. The players looked out for No. 1 and will definitely benefit in the short term. The game itself, though, is a little less healthier than it was a month ago.
According to Jorge Castillo of the Washington Post, Nationals infielder Danny Espinosa declined to attend the team’s annual Winterfest because of his dissatisfaction with management following their trade for outfielder Adam Eaton.
A source told Castillo that Espinosa’s unhappiness stemmed from a belief that the acquisition would jeopardize his starting role in 2017. With Eaton in center field, Trea Turner will likely return to his post at shortstop, leaving Espinosa out in the cold — or, as the case may be, on the bench. The move shouldn’t come as a big surprise to Espinosa, however, as Nationals’ GM Mike Rizzo spoke to the possibility of trading the infielder or reassigning him to a utility role back in early November.
Offensively, the 29-year-old had a down year in 2016, slashing just .209/.306/.378 with 24 home runs in 601 PA. Defensively, he still profiles among the top shortstops in the National League, with eight DRS (Defensive Runs Saved) and 8.3 Def (Defensive Runs Above Average) in his seventh year with the club.
Espinosa will reach free agency after the 2017 season.
The Red Sox might be trying to move the wrong pitcher, according to the Boston Globe’s Nick Cafardo. Cafardo revealed that while the Sox have been trying to market right-hander Clay Buchholz, more teams would be interested in trades involving southpaw Drew Pomeranz.
The club appears reluctant to deal Pomeranz, especially because his price tag comes in at a cool $4.7 million to Buchholz’s $13.5 million in 2017. Those who have already expressed interest in the veteran hurlers, including the Twins, Mariners and Royals, also seem put off by Buchholz’s salary requirements as he enters his 32nd year.
Health could be another factor preventing teams from jumping to make trade offers, as Cafardo quotes an AL executive who believes the “medicals on both Pomeranz and Buchholz probably aren’t that great.” Neither pitcher suffered any major injuries during the 2016 season, though Pomeranz missed just over a week of play due to forearm soreness.
Pomeranz outperformed his fellow starter in 2016, pitching to a 3.32 ERA and career-best 9.8 K/9 through 170 2/3 innings with the Padres and Red Sox. He got off to an exceptionally strong start in San Diego, where his ERA dropped to 2.47 through the first half of the year before the Padres dealt him to Boston for minor league right-hander Anderson Espinoza. Buchholz, on the other hand, struggled with a 4.78 ERA and saw a decline in both his BB/9 and K/9 rates as he worked out a career-low 1.69 K/BB through 139 1/3 innings with the Sox.