When MLB and the Players Association came to terms on a new collective bargaining agreement following the 2011 season, a number of new mechanisms were put in place ostensibly in the name of fairness. The revenue sharing agreement was changed in order to exclude clubs in the biggest 15 markets from getting those dollars, Toronto included, while competitive balance draft picks were introduced, and changes to the competitive balance tax were made, which the Yankees are now notably running up against.
Another area where the playing field was supposedly levelled– at the expense of amateurs not in the union, of course– was in the draft.
What we’ve ended up isn’t quite the commissioner’s preferred “hard slotting” plan, but the introduction of bonus pools and strict penalties for overpayment was supposed to be an improvement on the previous system, in which talented players dropped due to signability and then were scooped up by big market, high payroll clubs. And it’s sort of worked! But… um… turns out there might be a slight problem with the new draft setup when it comes to compensation for players receiving qualifying offers– at least, it sure looked like a problem from where I was sitting when I saw it highlighted in the “Winners” section of Ken Rosenthal’s roundup of yesterday’s activity over at Fox Sports.
Moving away from some paragraphs on the players who yesterday avoided being chained to a market-destroying draft pick, Kenny Ken Ken commented on the good fortune of a couple of teams:
Yankees, Red Sox. The rich get richer.
Both the Yankees and Red Sox made qualifying offers to three players – the Yankees to Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda and Curtis Granderson, the Red Sox to Jacoby Ellsbury, Mike Napoli and Stephen Drew.
Both clubs possess large enough payrolls to absorb one-year, $14.1 million hits; Granderson and Drew are perhaps the most likely of the six to accept – and Drew, like most Scott Boras clients, still would probably prefer to determine his value on the open market.
The Yankees wound up with the Nos. 32 and 33 picks last season as compensation for Nick Swisher and Rafael Soriano (they re-signed Kuroda). This year, they might re-sign all three of the players to whom they made offers. But they also could wind up with extra picks between the first and second rounds.
The Red Sox, meanwhile, could hit the compensatory-pick jackpot – they are almost certain to get one for Ellsbury, and it’s not of the question that they could get two more for Drew and Napoli.
Not quite how the system is supposed to work.
For fuck sakes!
In fact, last year there were just nine players who received qualifying offers, four of whom– including the ones cited by Rosenthal– played for either the Yankees or the Red Sox. This year it’s six of thirteen! Not that those offers aren’t completely justifiable, but… um… holy shit, yeah, let’s give them more draft picks! You know?
Hey, but it’s not so bad. Next year they’ll only potentially be putting out qualifying offers to whichever of those guys actually take a one-year offer made this year, plus their other pending free agents: David Ortiz, Jake Peavy, Ryan Dempster, Shane Victorino, Jon Leaster, John Lackey (club option), Alfonso Soriano, Ichiro, Derek Jeter, and Brett Gardner.
Obviously not all those guys will actually hit free agency, or get offers, or leave those clubs even if they do, but holy shitballs!!!!!1! Another compensatory pick jackpot is pretty much already in the cards. And… like, how warped is it that those are the teams who, so far, have stood to benefit most dramatically from the system, while yesterday a club like the Jays may have had to come to the decision that they could not afford the risk of the payroll structure havoc that would be caused by making a qualifying offer to Josh Johnson and having him accept it. Same goes for the A’s and Bartolo Colon, and the Pirates and A.J. Burnett (unless they truly believe, as MLBTR suggested, that he’s sincere in saying his choice will be between either the Bucs or retirement).
I could add some names to that list, too– Jason Vargas, Tim Hudson, Dan Haren, maybe Scott Kazmir– though figuring on those guys getting offers is probably too big of a stretch. In fact, I’m not sure those guys would have even received a guaranteed $14.1-million from either of the two AL East juggernauts. Jarrod Saltalamacchia didn’t, for example! And that’s despite being predicted by MLBTR to be looking at something in the four-year, $36-million neighbourhood, while Keith Law guessed it could end up being even higher back in September at ESPN.com (Insider only).
So maybe that suggests the system isn’t quite as broken as I fear? Maybe these two teams just happened to have ideal candidates to be given qualifying offers these last two seasons– partly because they have a lot of high salary, free-agent-age guys in the first place? But… I don’t know. I don’t know. Not a lot of clubs can afford to go year-to-year with their players in this way, where there’s no cost certainty until a player’s decision hits you in the face. Not a lot of clubs can say, “See you later, Salty, we think we’re just going to take Brian McCann instead, but just to show there are no hard feelings, we’ll do you a solid and not string a draft-pick-sized anchor around your neck.”
On the other hand, maybe the lesser-spending clubs are actually feeling so flush with TV cash that they’re not concerned about the value of the certainty of keeping the player in hand, as they think they’ll be able to land the players they need at prices not inflated by the dance with the qualifying offer. Maybe they’re ready to flip the CBA on its head, knowing that they’ve got a couple of protected first round draft picks and figure that now is the time, if ever, to pull a 2009 Yankees! Maybe they’re gearing up to target guys they want rather than guys they have, taking runs at Beltran(!), Cano(!), Choo(!), Cruz(!), Drew(!), Jimenez(!), Kuroda(!), McCann(!), Morales(!), Napoli(!), Santana(!), everybody! Fuck the other nine rounds of the draft and get as many as you can! Or how about just the bargain guys who end up getting “Lohse-d” into below-market contracts! Huh? Huh? Huh?
OK, maybe that’s not what the A’s are secretly up to. But thinking of the Jays, I can dream (ridiculously), can’t I?
Shit, I wrote a post about Robinson Cano the other week– damn right I can dream! Try it yourself! It’s sure a whole lot more fucking satisfying than thinking about the Yankees and Red Sox potentially getting three extra high draft picks each, and more again next year.