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Monday, October 30, 2006
New Baseball CBA Worse for Draftees and Minor Leaguers
Last week, MLB and the MLBPA agreed to a five-year labor contract that will allow play to continue uninterrupted through the 2011 season. While the players, team owners and fans are praising the new agreement and exclaiming that "it's such a great time in the game," the ones not applauding are all the minor leaguers and prospects for next year's draft. That's because the new CBA includes a revamped draft for amateur players, but nobody's talking about that. Here's a summary of some new provisions that substantially affect only drafted players and minor leaguers:
1. Clubs that fail to sign first or second round draft pick will receive the same pick in the subsequent draft as compensation. A club that fails to sign a third round pick will receive a sandwich pick between rounds three and four in the subsequent draft as compensation.
2. Signing deadline of August 15 for draft picks other than college seniors.
3. Period of time before a Player must be protected from the Rule 5 Draft is changed from three years (players who signed out of college) or four years (players who signed out of high school) to four or five years, respectively.
The changes to the draft described in Nos. 1 and 2 above substantially affect the negotiating leverage of drafted players. First, under the old rule, clubs had a huge incentive to sign their top picks because they wasted those draft picks if they didn't sign them. Now it's not a big deal if the clubs don't sign the player because they'll get that same pick again in the following year's draft (in addition to the pick they would otherwise have that year). Second, under the old rule, the clubs lost the rights to the drafted player when the player entered classes in the fall. While the new rule merely shortens the negotiation window by a few weeks, it will affect the ability of players to "hold out" during the negotiation process. Finally, under the old rule, clubs were forced to put minor league prospects on 40-man rosters a year sooner than they will be forced to do under the new rule. The Rule 5 draft is somewhat complicated, but essentially, if a club does not protect the player on the 40-man roster, then another team can draft that player and the drafting team is required to put the player on its 40-man roster.
I wonder if anybody within the union got any input from the draft prospects and minor league players before they agreed to the new provisions? So when Don Fehr says to the union player representatives, "are we willing to sacrifice the rights of prospective members of the union in exchange for something beneficial to the existing members," do you think anybody objected? Oh well, five years from now Mr. Fehr might be asking his player reps. a different question: Should we cut the farm system in half, reduce the number of draft rounds and impose a college draft age rule in return for increased benefits to major league players? Can anybody guess what their answer will be?