The Cubs, the CBA, and the misguided efforts of Commissioner Selig

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:

  1. Pittsburgh Pirates
  2. Washington Nationals
  3. Kansas City Royals
  4. Chicago Cubs
  5. Arizona Diamondbacks
  6. Tampa Bay Rays
  7. Seattle Mariners
  8. San Diego Padres
  9. Toronto Blue Jays
  10. 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


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  • I hope any changes do not greatly affect the Cubs on how much they
    want of spend on draft picks. I think making them all suppl. picks
    might be a good solution.

  • In reply to emartinezjr:

    Me neither. I don't even like the luxury tax idea. It's just bad for baseball in my opinion.

    I'd be okay with just suppl picks for compensation. The bigger free agents don't get affected anyway. Any team who wants to win now would trade Pujols or Fielder for a first round pick. It's the Kelly Johnson's of the world that get the short end of the stick.

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    I'm not sure Selig pays attention to much of anything. He always looks kind of lost to me (by the way - great pic above), like when the ASG went extra innings and both teams ran out of pitchers.
    Based on the list you supplied of teams that spend in the draft, hard slotting would be bad for baseball. Looks like all it takes is a little bit of research to discover this. I hope they don't change it, especially since the Cubs are finally taking advantage of it.
    Looking at the A and B free agents, a lot of it seems pretty arbitrary. There are a bunch of guys listed as A's that I would question, and a few B's that I wonder why they aren't A's.

    probably all supplemental picks would be a good move, although that may benefit the big market teams that sign the type A FA's, since they would get the FA and their first round pick.

  • In reply to brober34:

    He does look lost. Reinsdorf always volunteers to help him find his way.

  • In reply to brober34:

    Very true about the supplemental picks only resolution favoring the wealthy teams. And I totally agree that the ranking system is messed up. It makes no sense at times.

  • John - have you heard any updates on the worldwide draft? I know Selig was trying to add this along with slotting.

  • In reply to Zorb:

    Haven't heard anything, but I'm sure it's off the table. No way they can get that right now. Focus is just on compensation and finding some compromise for hard slotting.

  • Excellent points made here John. I just don't understand where Bud Selig and Jerry Reinsdorf are coming from, doesn't add up. I'd like to see you get an interview with Jerry and press him on this one, really take him to task,.

    Bud Selig also wants the international market included into the 1st year player draft, another change that would affect the way the Cubs do business now. Doesn't seem like that is close to happening in this CBA though, wouldn't you say?

    As for the FA compensation system, I like teams signing Type A guys losing a high pick, but the way they determine that Type A status is ridiculous & outdated. They need a more modern way that more closely mirrors what a player is worth on the open market. Using salary seems like an obvious solution, but the players association probably wouldn't like that one, and the status couldn't be determined until after the fact. How about some modern all-encompassing sabermetric stats like WAR?

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Oh, just read your comment to Zorb above, looks like you answered my question about the worldwide draft.

  • In reply to ChiRy:

    Thanks, ChiRy.

    I'd love to hear why Reinsdorf thinks this is a good idea for anyone but him.

    I think using something like WAR would be a great idea to use for compensation purposes, especially since it works across the board for all positions. It's a nice, clean, simple solution.

  • I can't see how the small market teams are even on board with Reinslig on hard slotting.

    To have hard slotting on the table just because a handful of owners want it, seems a bit underhanded to me.

    It would be interesting to see how many HS players would have bypassed the pros if hard slotting were in place. Two names off the top of my head are Dunston Jr. and Maples. Maybe even Vogelbach. Do the Pirates sign Josh Bell? There would be a considerable number of players lost if hard slotting were in place.

    Reinny doesn't care about what's good for baseball, he only cares about baseball (as well as the city and the state) serving his best interests.

  • In reply to Alex:

    Great points, Alex. I don't think any of those guys sign if hard slotting was in place, definitely not Vogelbach, Maples, or Dunston. It certainly means more guys go to college if they're not first or even 2nd rounders.

  • John ... Reinsdorf wants EVERYthing to be his way ... and thus Selig will, as ever, do his bidding.

    You couldn't be more right ... market inefficiencies ... the very essence of Moneyball. With everyone doing numbers and computers it takes guts and finesse to play the MLB draft as currently constituted. So... Pittsburgh goes "all in" and comes up a big winner.

    No way do HS kids who are committed to college sign if hard slotting is the law of the land ... only other choice would be NOT to declare for college ... and that's a crap shoot of a whole 'nother color.

    The exclusion would be to go to a community/Juco ... I think.

    Reinsdorf needs to kick Kenny's ass and get him to play smart ... hes' the idjit who trades high end prospects for EXACTLY the kind of players Epstein & Co will (please god) stay away from !!!!

    This issue is one the players and agents MUST not give in on !!!!

    Pittsburgh, Washington, & KC are all "newcomers" to the "table" ... SD had the benefit of Hoyer/McLeod the last 2 yrs. Tampa has led the way for quite some time.

    I know Epstein, Friedman & Hendry were GM's with tenure (Hendry was fired but we didn't know it then) ... but aren't all the others on the list relative newbies to their GM posts?

  • In reply to MoneyBoy:

    Pretty much everyone has been hired within the past 2-3 years other than the ones you mentioned and also Dayton Moore of the Royals.

  • The sooner Err Bud hit's the skids, the better.

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