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.

MLB executive: Bruce Maxwell’s kneeling may keep him from finding work, not his arrest

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In September 2017, former Athletics catcher Bruce Maxwell became the first major league player to kneel during the national anthem, joining the handfuls of NFL players who had been doing the same to protest police brutality and racial inequality. Maxwell’s effort was laudable, but he got into trouble a month later when he was arrested for aggravated assault with a deadly weapon and disorderly conduct. Maxwell allegedly pointed a gun at a food delivery person.

Maxwell, 27, played sparingly for the Athletics in 2018 and then was designated for assignment at the beginning of September. He officially became a free agent on November 2 and has had trouble finding work in the month-plus since.

Susan Slusser of the San Francisco Chronicle reports that Maxwell fired his agent, Matt Sosnick on Thursday because he’s still jobless. According to an unnamed MLB executive Slusser spoke to, “It’s the kneeling thing that might keep him from getting another job, not the arrest. Owners aren’t going to want to deal with that whole anthem issue.”

That makes a lot of since since abusive players haven’t had too much trouble finding new work otherwise. Addison Russell, Jeurys Familia, and José Reyes, among others have either stayed with their teams or quickly found new work. Given the relatively weak catching market, had Maxwell only had the assault charge, there is no doubt he would have been signed to be a backup catcher somewhere.

In the NFL, Colin Kaepernick — who popularized kneeling during the anthem — has remained unsigned even though teams have opted to sign and start clearly inferior quarterbacks like Mark Sanchez, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Jay Cutler, Matt Barkley, and Sam Bradford, among many others. Team owners tend to run conservative in terms of politics, so they may not like the protest to begin with, then there is the public blowback to signing such a player as those who dislike such protesting make up a slight majority in the U.S., according to various polls including one done by the Washington Post.

It’s worth noting that Maxwell has a career .240/.314/.347 triple-slash line in 412 plate appearances. We’re not talking about J.T. Realmuto or Buster Posey here. That being said, there have been 15 other catchers to have put up a lower aggregate OPS since 2016 (min. 400 PA). One of those players, Derek Norris (.600 OPS since 2016), signed a minor league contract with the Tigers just three months after being suspended by Major League Baseball for violating its domestic violence policy. Makes you think.