If only we could all see the insanity going on behind closed doors right now at MLB clubs and in agent offices around the country. Based on changes to the CBA, and some <ahem> internal arm twisting by the Commissioner's Office, at midnight EDT tonight the deadline for signing those selected in June’s MLB draft picks will have arrived and with that, if a player is not signed, they are returned to the draft, making that player ineligible for a year of pro ball and the club loses the pick.
The difference between this year and years prior are changes to the process via the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, along with guidelines by MLB to the owners on the bonuses awarded signees, that come precariously close to collusion. It’s set up a high-stakes poker game between agents and teams that has far reaching implications.
Over the years, owners have complained during bargaining with the MLBPA that there needed to be a clear system that would “slot” players into brackets that would then correlate to a pre-defined bonus. The union’s contention has always been, let the market play itself out. The problem with that was that agents, most notoriously Scott Boras, would take draft-picks and hold out until the last minute for huge signing bonuses.
This CBA, however, the union shifted, or buckled, depending on your point of view, and gave in to the owner's request for the following changes:
Players selected in the June amateur draft who are not college seniors must sign by Aug. 15. Teams that do not sign first- or second-round draft picks receive the same pick in the next draft as compensation. Clubs that don't sign a third-round pick receive a sandwich pick between the third and fourth rounds.
Then, MLB did something that has been whispered of before, but has become near common knowledge now: they put in their own slotting system by urging teams to trim offers from 2006 by 10% for each slot in the draft.
Yes, you may all nod your head and think out loud, “Collusion.”
The net impact of these changes is that as of this AM a third of the players drafted have yet to be signed, setting up visions of a whirling dervish between agents and baseball personnel across the league as the midnight ET deadline approaches.
What will be interesting to see is if the owners hold the line based on the guidelines from on high at 245 Park. After all, it only takes one team to say that they’re not going to be a lemming and award a bonus above the slot “suggestions.” When that happens, the flurry of signings should be on.
Given the insanity that is about ensue, don’t mind if The Biz of Baseball sits back and waits for the dust to settle after the deadline tonight before reporting on the signings.
Maury Brown is the founder and president of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football and The Biz of Basketball (The Biz of Hockey will be launching shortly). He is also a contributor to Baseball Prospectus.
He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted here.