The idea of the Collective Bargaining Agreement as an enormous and onerous set of regulations on acquiring amateur talent has been floating around for a while. For a remarkably exhaustive rundown of all the provisions installed, Larry from South Side Sox has must-read primers on the changes to amateur talent, and to free agency.
It's not so much that the White Sox benefit from the new restrictions on draft and international spending, as much as it is that it restricts teams from doing so much of what the White Sox absolutely fail on every level to ever do.
Surely I'm not the only one who read that, and thought this?
Being the very cheapest team in the league in terms of draft spending over the past four years, the draft cap initially appeared to be a huge boon for the Sox, as the league would be dragged down to their level.
The cap essentially constitutes hard-slotting for draft bonuses, with furiously heinous penalties for exceeding the cap. Penalties start with a 75% tax for going 5% over slot, and then a sliding scale that leads up to a 100% tax and two lost 1st round picks for going over 15% over slot.
The slotting is more lenient than previous years' recommendations, while also allowing for money not used on bonuses for each round to be rolled over for picks for the rest of the top 10 rounds. So perhaps this isn't the complete disaster for draft-reliant clubs it could have been.
It's certainly a hindrance, and you can pretty much forget about taking a late-round flier on a high-schooler and getting them to sign for a higher bonus. All bonuses over $100K given out after the 10th round counting against the team's limit. Still it's not a disaster. The supplemental picks thrown in at the end of the 1st round for small market teams may even cover some of the total hurt on lower-budget teams.
Whether or not de-facto hard-slotting brings the White Sox back toward the middle of draft spending remains to be seen. Hey, maybe the Sox took note of how 8 of the top 10 finishers for the NL MVP were acquired by their current teams via the draft, and another one was acquired via trade for a package of top prospects. I know I did!
Now this, this is a disaster. Not for the White Sox of course, a team with only the most nascent whispers of an international program, are typically stingy, and set their reputation on fire a few years back.
Teams that poured millions into foreign scouting and development, and have been buttressing their farm system abroad without limits, probably won't appreciate having their international spending limited to $2.9 million in the upcoming year for all prospects age 23 or younger. In the future, the caps will be scaled from $5 million to $1.8 million depending on end-of-season finishes for teams, which is technically even worse news for the internationally-entrenched Texas Rangers.
The appeal for foreign players to sign at early ages, and the general ability for teams to pull in foreign amateurs into their training facilities is now formally limited.
On top of that, all international players need to register with MLB before they sign, reducing the advantage of unearthing hidden talents for team that are actually decent at scouting. The White Sox could in theory sneak in and try to outbid for players once they register...though they'd probably never do that because young players are tricky, and scary, and sometimes never really learn how to play baseball.
If anything, they're a mortal lock to utilize the future provision of being able to trade up to half of their international budget to other teams.
Typically, when the White Sox have voyaged out of the country, they've gone for relative sure-things, or at least easily-projected things, and the premiums required to net them in the past will need to be curbed somehow, while still convincing them it's worth their while to sign under amateur restrictions.
It would seem like wooing the top talent from all over the world should be a foremost priority for MLB, instead it's apparently viewed as the perfect way to cut costs while not upsetting the players union. It's suspected that the foundations for an even further playing field-flattening international draft. Can you imagine such a thing? It'd be deep enough for the White Sox to have an entire draft worth of 23 year-old college players!
Free Agent Compensation
With the Elias rankings gone, compensation is only available for players their teams feel like extending qualifying offers for, with picks sandwiched between the 1st and 2nd rounds available as compensation. Teams signing these players will still forfeit their picks, just not directly.
The odd transfer of systems during this current free agency does not figure to affect the White Sox, besides not getting compensation for Buehrle. Fine! As if the pain of losing Buehrle could be assuaged with draft compensation! (Tearfully chucks compensatory gift basket out of window)
The White Sox will never get free draft picks for having veteran relievers like Jason Frasor on the roster again, but the new system should allow them to secure compensation for Danks and Quentin, whose market value outstripped their Elias standing. Danks would almost certainly turn down a one-year qualifying offer at the end of 2012 for the multi-year bonanza he could command, and costing a draft pick might make him less enticing to other teams in free agency.
Quentin turning down a qualifying offer depends a lot more on his situation at the time, but even $12.4 million for a season of Quentin wouldn't be exorbitant for his production on a year-to-year basis. Because players have to be with their team for a full season to earn compensation, mid-season trade targets will have a lower value league-wide, making Danks and Quentin more likely to be traded during the off-season, if at all.
It's truly a dizzying array of changes that we'll probably still be learning about as they come into effect and dictate moves, but it's truly remarkable how little of it affects the White Sox and their typical activities. Hopefully that's a sign that the CBA is shifting the playing field to the White Sox favor, and not a hopelessly flawed approach.