Collective Bargaining Argreement signed, revealing more details that tick off almost everyone but the White Sox

Collective Bargaining Argreement signed, revealing more details that tick off almost everyone but the White Sox
"My process?" Williams chuckled, "I'LL SHOW YOU MY PROCESS!" before taking a vial of blood hanging around his neck labeled 'RV23' and pouring it into what looked to be the fuel cell of a homemade battery // Chris Sweda, Chicago Tribune

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.


The lazy and teams that don’t invest in scouting by evening the playing field. RT@feeger@Kevin_Goldstein who does this even benefit?

11 hours ago via TweetDeck

Surely I’m not the only one who read that, and thought this?

Draft Cap

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!

International Cap

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.


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  • How is it that the players union even represents unsigned international players and U.S. amateurs, and can bargain on their behalf? Being a poor schlub who doesn't know anything, I'd suggest a class action suit against the union. Or for ams and internationals to form their own union. C'mon, the owners tried to impose a salary cap on mlb players in 1994 and the union told them to shove it. We had no baseball for like a year. Seriously, it was horrible.

    And this certainly reveals how little sway small market teams hold over mlb owners, their bargaining position perhaps further eroded by benefiting from revenue sharing but skimping on expenditures.
    Big Metro East Coast Owner: "Assume the position!"
    Dinky Little Rustbelt City Owner: "Thank you sir may I have another!"

    This new CBA may not affect the White Sox way of doing things, but the whole thing just reeks of Reinsdorf. That makes me feel icky. Like I should apologize to someone. Maybe a Royals fan.

    Sorry for the long comment. Thanks for keeping readers informed about this James.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Thanks, it is quite literally my pleasure.

    The union doesn't represent amateurs, it's just that the amateurs have no real way to represent themselves. It's hard to have any leverage before signing, it's extremely hard to cite unfair practices prior to entering into the league, and it would be nigh impossible to wage a competent legal battle against MLB for a population with essentially no financial resources to speak of. I don't know if we could ever expect the players union to argue--essentially their own interest--for incoming players out of pure altruism. It should be on the owners to not be so short-sighted as to limit their own buying power for the best talent in the world.

    And it's depressing how willing they were to do it just to cut costs. Yahoo's Jeff Passan cited on his Twitter yesterday that GM's voted 24-6 in favor of the hard slotting installed in this CBA, and were 28-2 in favor of it in principle during a vote 3 years prior. There are certainly some dissenters--Texas' international operations has to be furious--but every indication is that this was not a contentious debate in the least, hence the quick agreement.

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    There is also precedent for rookie salary allotment/slotting in the NBA and NFL. I don't know if that would make a difference in court. It certainly wouldn't in the courtroom tv drama I'm imagining in my head right now.

    Look, I've always liked that MLB paid its minor league players, and at least had a viable minor league system in place where athletes could be professional baseball players and not have to pretend to be university students. But I'm really disappointed at the kind of raw deal amateurs, internationals, and minor leaguers (by extension) are getting here. Signing bonuses are huge for minor league players whose livelihoods resemble something like indentured servitude. It's unethical for both the players and owners to make more money at the expense of those who are not represented by either party and have no real recourse. Injustice is at work.

    That's all I'll say about it, as others don't seem to share my ire and this is not the forum.

    I hope the White Sox give us something to talk about soon. Even another Tony LaRussa to the front office rumor would do. Or Oney Guillen as an assesory in the Williams' home burglary.

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Without seeing immediately where this discussion goes, I'd say it's relevant for this forum. The NBA and NFL deal on the same level with their amateurs because those guys go straight in the league, and many players in the union are still on the deals they signed upon getting drafted and can draw from that experience. Players in the MLBPA are the absolute cream of the crop, and are very much detached from the fate of the amateur player whose bonus has a very good chance of being their biggest payday in life. That detachment has led them to approve a system where this population is unable to dictate their free market price, a privilege they themselves richly enjoy.

    Hey the White Sox declined to offer arbitration to Juan Pierre. Happy Decline to Offer Arbitration to Juan Pierre Day!

  • In reply to James Fegan:

    Right, straight in the league. The comparisons break down further when you consider the NFL and NBA have a different kind of minor league structure. It's called the NCAA. Its professional players are called "student-athletes" and for some reason they get college scholarships instead of salaries. High school football or basketball players are unable to dictate their free market price. They are unable to garner a price at all. That professional league (NCAA) is not officially associated with the NBA or NFL so no one frets.

    So I guys major baseball league players could argue to minor league players, "Hey, at least you're getting paid." But I say all minor leaguers in all sports should be getting paid and/or they should be getting paid more.

    While MLBPA players are the absolute cream of the crop, the rest of the minor leagues, from rookie ball to AAA, represent the rest of the cream of the crop. From little leagues, to pony leagues, to high schools, to colleges, they are talented and committed enough to still be playing ball and entertaining folks. There are probably fewer professional baseball players than neurosurgeons (not a fact, just made it up to make a point), yet many get paid like public health clinic receptionists (no offense to public health clinic receptionists, I think they should get paid more too).

    Speaking of not getting paid, happy Juan Pierre DOA day to you too!

  • In reply to Ham N Egger:

    Well, there's nothing that seems remotely sustainable about the college systems other than how profitable they are. They already broke down and allowed for increased stipends for athletes, and the violations for compensating amateurs are only going to keep piling up.

    It boils down to MLB placing arbitrary controls on their compensation with the thought that they have too much leverage for anything to be done about it. Now it's a matter of whether losing athletes to other sports, failing to entice amateurs into MLB developmental leagues, or as you and Jonah Keri have suggested, some sort of pro-bono legal action can change that.

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