Monday, December 5, 2016

The New CBA and How It May Affect the Braves

Last week, the Owners of Major League Baseball and the Player Union agreed to terms on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, avoiding a possible lockout. There's a lot to dive into and it's worth the effort to learn about this CBA, but if you want a quick-and-dirty look at how it pertains to the Atlanta Braves, here you go. Note - I'm not an expert on the ins-and-outs of CBA language so feel free to point me in the right direction if I go astray.

Scheduling
-I've talked about service time a great deal because for a team with so many young players, it becomes a bit of an important detail. Starting in 2018, it will be a bit easier to reach the needed 172 days to count as a full year of service. The regular season will increase from 183 to 187 days with off days accounting for the extra days along with the season beginning a bit earlier. That leaves a total of at least 16 days that a player will have to remain in the minors to buy an extra year of team control.

All-Star Game Fiasco
-Remember new Hall of Fame member Bud Selig's bright idea about making the All-Star Game count by awarding Home Field Advantage to the winner? Yeah, that's gone - which is awesome because why should the Braves be forced to not have home field advantage after winning 120 games in 2019 and going to the World Series where they beat the expansion Las Vegas Express? (ed: don't bet money on the last thing happening. 120-42 is nearly impossible)

Easier DL decisions
-Gone is the 15-day DL. In its place, welcome the 10-Day DL. Instead of worrying about losing your player for two weeks just to deal with a strain, you can lose him for a smaller time frame. I look at this as a good thing as a lot of players for those players who are good-to-go after a week or so on the DL, but have to wait it out.

Clubhouse Health
-This area was a well thought-out change that I hope, over time, is pushed down the ladder to the minors. Clubs will be required to provide a sports psychologist and a registered dietitian that can help provide guidance on nutrition and dietary supplements. The former is just smart as it helps remove the stigma of the big, manly men who can't seek out help to deal with the things in their life. Shocker: happier baseball players = more productive baseball players. The dietitian part, I believe, has become more and more important as the drug testing increasingly gets refined (more tests are included in this CBA). We have a lot of players who don't even understand what they are putting into their bodies. They are subsequently busted for PED offenses. That's not to say all players who have been busted fit into that, but some do and baseball (and its union) should be taking care of them to try to help them avoid costly suspensions. Unfortunately, the minor leaguers, who need guidance the most, will likely be shut out. Another helpful addition - no more hazing of rookie players. I know we all laugh when we see players dressed in drag, but really, it's 2016. Time to grow up.

Draft Pick Compensation Changes
-The qualified offer compensation system was a bust. While it fixed the issue of long relievers being offered arbitration when they were a Type A free agent, it ruined the markets of some very good free agents. Now, there are a lot of particulars involved here and I don't want to bog you down with all of the details. The Braves are unlikely to spend enough to reach the Competitive Balance Tax, or CBT, which begins at $195M in 2017 and gradually increases to $210M by 2021. CBT Payors receive the harshest punishment (lose second-highest and fifth-highest selections, plus lose $1M in international signing money) when they sign a free agent formerly offered a qualified offer.
-Specific to the Braves - and important to draft pick compensation - is that they are no longer considered a market disqualified team. Basically, that's a way of saying that instead of taking part in revenue sharing, the Braves could end up keeping it. Where this becomes slightly important is that it may mean that the Braves would forfeit just their third highest remaining selection in the amateur draft rather than their second-highest. The latter also sees its international signing bonus pool decreased by $500K.
-Further, receiving compensation also changes. Ignoring the CBT Payor Club, if the Braves are non-market disqualified, they could receive a pick immediately following the first round IF that player receives a contract worth at least $50M. What happens if the Braves become a market disqualified club or a player doesn't sign for at least $50M? That's not so clear just yet, but it looks like all other compensation would come after the Competitive Balance Round B concludes (after the second round).

The Draft Itself
-Remember how people said the Braves were tanking for the #1 pick? Well, it failed because of the second half surge and now, it won't even as valuable to tank. The bonus slot system has been tweaked to reduce such a difference between #1 and #2 and so on. In fact, the suggested slot bonus for the first overall pick is lower than it has been the last four years. While teams will still be incentivized to live within the limitations of a draft system in which going under-slot early allows a team to pay over-slot later, it shouldn't be as bad.

Going International
-Sad news: The Braves will not be able to avoid the punishment and restrictions from spending so much on the previous international signing period to get Kevin Maitan and others. So, for the next two seasons, the Braves will be limited to signing bonuses of $300K and lower (exempting bonuses of $10K and lower).
-Now, the good news. While the international draft was scrapped, something pretty amazing happened. For the first time, the players were open to a salary cap. Probably had something to do with getting tired of watching guys get $20-$25M guaranteed despite never playing in the majors. Instead of that, teams will start with a $4.75M bonus signing pool. Teams that receive a Competitive Balance Pick will have pools of either $5.25M or $5.75M based on where their pick is. Pools can grow with "industry revenue," but let's ignore that for the time being.
-Teams can trade up to 75% of their pools in the next two years and 60% after that. This part is key because the Braves will likely not get close to their $4.75M pool in July 2017 or July 2018 as they deal with their restrictions. However, they can be on the reverse side of what they did in 2015. That year, they traded players for bonus slots so that could increase their bonus pool allotment enough to avoid penalties on future years. Now, they can use their extra pool money to potentially get a prospect or two from another team.
-Foreign players under 25 fall under the scope of the international signing period. This might effect Shohei Otani the most. Otani is a freak of nature who hit 22 homers and had a 1.86 ERA in 140 innings last year. Otani doesn't turn 23 until next July. With the strict international limits meaning the most he could receive would be a shade under $10M, he'll stay in Japan until he comes of age unless an exception is built into the CBA at some point.
-By the way, if you are caught cheating - and the Red Sox were last year - you can lose up to 50% of your allotment for the life of the deal.

No Roster Changes
-There were rumors about a 26-man roster or alterations to the September callups. I've never been a fan of changing that as I'm one of the few that enjoys September callups - especially over the last two years of watching the Braves rebuild.

There will be more details released as everything is finalized, but this is a start. There are things to like about this CBA and the biggest one is that baseball assures itself of labor peace for another five years. There is just too much money to be made by everyone involved to chance it, but people get stupid. Luckily, everyone worked to a rational decision of compromise in this deal. Of course, there are already rumors that 2021 will see a nuclear war between the owners and players that will result in a strike, a lost season, the sky falling, and so on. But for now, let's just enjoy the ride.

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