Reportedly there was significant progress made yesterday in CBA talks. One of the major hang ups has been the question of hard slotting, which is the practice of assigning specific dollar amounts based on draft position. On the surface it seems like an idea to equalize spending between the haves and the have nots.
But does it really?
Take a look at the list of these 10 teams:
- Pittsburgh Pirates
- Washington Nationals
- Kansas City Royals
- Chicago Cubs
- Arizona Diamondbacks
- Tampa Bay Rays
- Seattle Mariners
- San Diego Padres
- Toronto Blue Jays
- Boston Red Sox
Except for Chicago and Boston, none of these teams are in big markets. There's no Yankees or Mets. No Angels or Dodgers. No Phillies.
It's a list of the top spending teams in the draft in 2011 and each team on this list spent at least $10M.
Somehow Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf think that a hard-slotting system, like there is in the NBA, will favor the smaller markets and that the current system favors the big markets.
Haven't they been paying attention?
The draft is now an inefficiency in the market. The Pirates set a record by spending $17M+ in this draft. It's less than Carlos Zambrano made last year to pitch like a replacement level pitcher, yet the Pirates picked up at least 2 potential superstars in RHP Gerrit Cole and OF Josh Bell.
And it isn't just about potential superstars. By bringing in a talent pool of 30-40 players, the draft is a way to gets starters and role players without having to overpay for established major league players in the open market. It's also about building assets to obtain players in a trade.
The Cubs would be one of the losers if some form of hard slotting is approved. Just one year after they figured out that they could accumulate assets much more cheaply through the draft, Selig/Reinsdorf are working to take it away.
But the Cubs are not going to be the biggest losers.
Big market teams like the Cubs can always reallocate their resources into the international and major league markets. The real losers would be teams like the Rays, Pirates, Royals, and Padres. The one place where they can truly compete with the big markets is being taken away.
There are alternative solutions being explored, such as luxury taxes, but even that is misguided to me. So you're going to charge Pittsburgh a luxury tax for spending 17M on the draft? Really? Meanwhile wealthy teams can spend up to $178M in payroll and not pay a dime or have no limits at all in the international amateur market? Where's the logic here?
The answer is that there is none. Reinsdorf's White Sox are one of the few teams in baseball that actually stick to the slotted bonus amounts recommended by Selig and MLB. Not coincidentally, the White Sox are one of the worst drafting teams in baseball. If the playing field is leveled for anyone, it's for Reinsdorf's team.
The other major issue on the table also affects the Cubs. It has to do with compensation for free agents. Specifically, the union would like to make less type A free agents. Some players, such as Kelly Johnson, have no chance in the market as Type As. Johnson is coming off a bad year, what other team is going to take a chance on him, even just a flyer, if they have to give up a first or 2nd round pick for him? Under normal circumstances, the Cubs would take a look at someone like Johnson, but as a team looking to build assets for the future, not lose them, they won't want to lose a 2nd round pick to add a short term 2B. Another player the Cubs liked, Michael Cuddyer is a type A free agent, so as it stands now, the Cubs are not likely to give him much, if any, consideration either.
Another solution is to make all picks supplemental so that no team loses a draft pick. That solution wouldn't affect the Cubs one way or the other as all of their potential free agent losses will get them supplemental picks anyway. None of their free agents this year are Type As. If you're interested, here's a list of Type A and B free agents this season.
These issues are affecting the way teams pursue players so far this offseason. The hot stove league is off to a cautious start until an agreement is in place. The hope is that an agreement is reached by next week so the free agent season can begin in earnest.
Filed under: Cubs