I’m still on the fence about this new CBA. When you read the details it doesn’t appear as onerous as it did at first glance. Slot numbers can be exceeded without penalty as long as a team doesn’t exceed its overall allotted budget, so you can overspend on a few choice picks and underspend elsewhere without being subject to harsh sanctions.
I partially agree with William’s post from yesterday that small market teams crying foul over an inability to spend aggressively is largely misplaced, that the more likely outcome is a controlling of costs. But hard budgets will affect the small market team that wants to be aggressive one year and scale back the next. All drafts aren’t equal, some are deep in terms of talent while others simply aren’t. Draftees aren’t equal either, so a truly top flight talent like Bryce Harper that has the leverage of going back to school can force a team to exhaust more of its budget on him, leaving less cap space for the rest of the draft. That means they will have to pass on players in later rounds for signability reasons, defeating the stated goal of achieving more competitive balance.That can actually work in favor of a team like the Yanks, where talented players that would otherwise be picked fall in their laps. On the international front, the cap and trade system could allow the Yanks to continue to mine Latin America for talent, which is the place where they typically find their best prospects. Many teams aren’t active internationally, so plenty of credits should be available annually. In that way, for the Yanks its business as usual with a few twists added. But I do see two main changes as a practical matter in how the new system will play out.
Less Borrowing From the Future:
One way that the MLB Rule IV draft has always differed from other sports is that it isn’t as linear as the others, where the best players are well known to all teams and are selected early. Players are further away in terms of development, so teams will try to identify skills at a young age and draft them in the hope they can turn them into a player down the road. The new system means you won’t be able to go over slot as often in later rounds or at the end of the draft, since there will be no money available (100K) after the first 10 rounds and harsh penalties if you exceed your league-mandated budget number. This tactic was a main component of the Yankee draft strategy in recent years. Even if they can still do it, with a hard number they cannot exceed that means they will be doing it less often. Kids they were once able to entice to go pro will simply opt to go to college since there’s less financial incentive.
More players go to college:
There’s another side to cost containment for owners, and that’s how it affects the draftees. With less money available through the draft, all teams will be less able to entice a talented player to forgo college or leave in his junior year. That means more high end players go to college, and stay there longer. There’s a benefit to this in that MLB gets much more certainty in who they draft as a result. College players are far less speculative than High School draftees, so you let the NCAA separate the boys from the men. This can cut down on the number of busts all teams will have, and that would benefit everyone. More certainty also means drafts will be deeper at the upper levels, since you’re wasting less picks on high school players who’ve been weeded out in College.
From Yankee perspective, the news rules both help and hurt them. The new system will drive talent into college, so the Yankee strategy of drafting high end HS talent largely goes out the window. With just 4.5M to work with, its difficult to imagine them offering big money in later rounds. Under the current rules Dellin Betances almost certainly goes to Vanderbilt as an 1M 8th round pick. Brett Marshall’s 1M 6th round deal that included a college scholarship is less likely as well. Mason Williams is probably offered a fraction of the 1M 4th round bonus he got from the Yanks and goes to college. But teams at the top of the draft who blow most of their budget on their top pick will be forced to forgo players afterward, so picks 25-100 is where I see the Yanks doing best. I don’t think top players will demand less money because of this new system, teams will be faced with the decision of losing their pick or blowing too much of their budget on their top pick. That can create opportunities for the Yanks.
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