The Big Agreement

Earlier this week, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports provided readers with an insightful update into negotiations on Major League Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement between the owners and the players’ association.

Along with confirming that a new deal would include the addition of a one game, wild card round to the postseason in 2013 the story also suggested that the plan is tied to the creation of two 15 team leagues, and what I assume would be a more balanced schedule than what MLB is using right now. Rosenthal also informed us that the biggest point of contention between the two sides is the possible implementation of a more rigid slotting system for the draft.

The two sides remain far apart on the owners’ desire to institute “hard slotting” — predetermined signing bonuses — for the amateur draft, major league sources say.

I’ve read in the past that the MLBPA would use the owners’ desire to implement a hard slot as a bargaining chip for other wants. Its members, by definition, have already been drafted, and so there’s no real voice for future union members to stick up to what’s quickly being calculated as a market inefficiency. However, it would be shortsighted on the part of the union to allow draft picks to become even cheaper.

The amount of talent that can be purchased through signing draft picks and exerting control over a draft pick’s salary for the first six years of their service time can in many cases offer better value than the free agent market, as long as management has the patience to properly develop the player. An increasing number of teams are beginning to exert this patience.

There was one other item of interest in Rosenthal’s piece. He suggested that the players would be in a hurry to resolve negotiations prior to the free agent signing period, with the somewhat vague reasoning that free agents might be able to cash in on some of the changes.

Although the current agreement does not expire until Dec. 11, the players want an agreement before the market opens so that they can realize the benefits of the expected changes in free-agent compensation.

Hmm. When it comes to a battle between millionaires and billionaires, my heart is usually divided as such:

However, it doesn’t seem fair to immediately implement rules on free agent compensation considering that smart management groups would have signed free agents to contracts last off season and made trades throughout the year, with the fair assumption that the current rules would apply this coming off season as well.

Suddenly, trading for a Type B free agent reliever at the deadline likely won’t offer a team nearly as much value as they would have believed at the time that they were making the trade. Or, as MLB Commissioner Bud Selig might suggest to Executive Director of the Major League Baseball Players Association Michael Weiner:

Mikey, this is not ‘Nam. This is baseball. There are rules.