On second thought: the new CBA sells amateurs down the river

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In the blogging game, speed often rules. Sometimes you can be too fast, however. That happened a few minutes ago when I broke down the new collective bargaining agreement. Within about five minutes of that post going live, a number of details started spilling out about the thing, and a lot of those details are making me way more skeptical of the quality of this deal than I was when I called it “a total success.”

I think the biggest issue is that it is now becoming clear that the caps/taxes involved in tamping down amateur signing bonuses are way more harsh than had been suggested in earlier reports.

Specifically, the tax on amateur draft bonus seems downright punitive. If teams exceed the bonus limit set by Major League Baseball by more than 5%, they get hit with a 75% tax. If they exceed it by between 5 and 10%, they get a 75% tax and they lose a first round pick the next year.  If you’re 10-15% over, it’s a 100% tax and the loss of a first and second round pick. Fifteen percent or higher a  is 100% tax and the loss of two first-round picks.

The only thing not included is first born male children being turned over to a central league fund.

What’s more, the international signings are going to play into this as well, with any international player under the age of 23 being considered on the same basis as a draftee for tax purposes. Overall, there will be “pools” of international signing money available to each team, with better teams being able to pay out lower dollars in international signings than worse teams and, at some point in the future, the ability of teams to trade their international money to other teams if they don’t want to use it.  It’s unclear yet how that will work.

Let’s be really clear about something here: these changes are going to make baseball way less attractive to amateur players.  If you’re an elite two-sport athlete you’d be frankly crazy to try baseball first before giving the NBA or NFL a shot.  It may also serve as a de-incentive for scouts and agents and stuff to look for the next big thing in the Dominican Republic, say.  Even more significantly, this directly impacts the low-revenue teams who rely disproportionately on the draft in order to improve quickly.

Unlike a few minutes ago I’m going to hold an ultimate verdict until I’ve had a chance to think on it some more, but man: it seems like the owners and the MLBPA banded together to stick to it to the amateurs and draftees and international free agents.  And that seems profoundly shortsighted to me.

Bryce Harper played some third base in an intrasquad game

Bryce Harper third base
Andy Lewis/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
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Phillies star outfielder Bryce Harper played some third base during Monday’s intrasquad game at Citizens Bank Park, Jim Salisbury of NBC Sports Philadelphia reports. Harper had been pestering manager Joe Girardi for the opportunity and the skipper finally gave in.

Girardi told Harper, “No diving. And make sure your arm is loose.” Harper had the opportunity to field one ball, a grounder to his left and he made the play perfectly.

Why put Harper at third base? Girardi said, “I think it’s important the guys have fun. I saw him a week ago taking ground balls there and I was impressed. His hands worked well out front and he threw the ball across the field well. I told him, ‘You look good there.'”

Despite the solid showing, don’t expect Harper to show up at third base in a meaningful game anytime soon. That being said, the Phillies’ second and third base situations are still not cemented. Jean Segura will likely open the season at the hot corner with Scott Kingery at second, but things could change between now and Opening Day in 10 days.

Harper, 27, is coming off a solid first season with the Phillies. He hit .260/.372/.510 with 36 doubles, 35 home runs, 114 RBI, 98 runs scored, and 15 stolen bases across 682 plate appearances. Per FanGraphs, Harper’s 4.6 Wins Above Replacement ranked 16th in the National League. For some people, those numbers weren’t nearly good enough, so the expectations remain high as Harper enters year two of his 13-year, $330 million contract.