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.