MLB, MLBPA Form International Talent Committee

Via Ben Balder, MLB and the players’ union has gotten together to form an International Talent Committee to review the way international players are sign and developed. The committee will be responsible for many things, including evaluating whether or not baseball should implement an international draft. There’s obviously a ton of logistics that will have to be worked out, including eligibility, agents, trainers, signing age, educational programs, the whole nine, but the wheels are now in motion.

The Yankees have built the core of their farm system through international free agency for decades, but the spending cap put in place by the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is really going to throw a wrench into their operation. An international draft will only hurt them further, but thankfully we’re still a few years from seeing one put in place.

email

Biz Round-Up: Sweet Lou returns, MLB rule changes

Report: Lou Piniella set to join YES Network team

An old familiar face is getting ready to return to the Yankee family. One-time Yankee player and manager Lou Piniella will be rejoining the Yankees as a spring training instructor and YES Network analyst, Bob Raissman of The Daily News reported yesterday. Piniella, who served as a San Francisco Giants’ consultant last year, wanted to stay in baseball but also wanted to be close to his home in Tampa. The Yanks were the perfect fit.

According to Raissman’s report, Piniella will do “a limited number of appearances” on YES. The News scribe expects the former skipper to be in the booth come Opening Day in the Trop, and he’ll do a handful of other series throughout the season. The Piniella deal isn’t final yet, but a YES Network spokesperson confirmed to Bryan Hoch that the two sides were working toward a contract. It’ll be good to hear Sweet Lou, who served in the MSG broadcast booth in 1989, back on TV.

Rule tweaks dominate new MLB Basic Agreement

Later this week, the MLB Owners will ratify the new Major League Baseball Basic Agreement, and as the Players Association approved it today, it will become the law of the baseball land. We’ve heard a lot about the changes to the luxury tax, the amateur draft and international spending. Now, courtesy of the Associated Press, we learn about the myriad minor rule changes as well.

Many of these rule changes are common-sense. The Yankees, who should have played the Wild Card Rays this year in the playoffs but did not, would under a rule that allows teams from the same division to meet in the Division Series. MLB, as was reported earlier this fall, will expand instant replay to include “trapped” catches and some more fair/foul calls. The All Star Break will now be four days, and the game may move to Wednesday beginning in 2013 as well.

For players, MLB has banned tattoos with corporate logos and obscene nicknames written on equipment that may be visible to fans at the stadium or at home. Furthermore, David Ortiz will no longer be allowed to whine about his RBI total as players are banned from requesting scoring changes from the official scorer. Only MLB may hear an appeal now.

My favorite new rule change concerns uniforms though. Here’s how the AP describes it:

Quick uniform number switches will be a thing of the past. Players must tell the commissioner’s office by July 31 of the preceding year if they want a new jersey. That is, unless “the player (or someone on his behalf) purchases the existing finished goods inventory of apparel containing the player’s jersey number.” As in, every replica jersey, jacket, T-shirt, mug and anything else with a number that’s anywhere in stock.

How utterly vindictive.

Finally, one popular team practice has been eliminated as well: Clubs may no longer summon Minor Leaguers to the Majors without activating them. In other words, no more will top prospects be allowed to watch the rest of the regular season unfold in late September from the bench. The Yanks have done this in the past with their youngsters ranging from Derek Jeter to Jesus Montero and beyond. All told, though, these rule changes seem fairly reasonable to me.

CBA Madness: Even more draft changes

The other day we heard about the smaller-than-expected draft pool and the inability to allocate the money for unsigned picks elsewhere, and now Jim Callis brings us even more draft changes. For one, they’re cutting ten rounds, so it’ll be just 40 rounds from now on. That’s actually a good change, they could probably lop off another ten rounds.

Another significant changes as to do with compensation picks for unsigned players. Teams will now get an extra year of protection, meaning if they can’t sign the guy they took with one of those comp picks, they will get a pick again the next year. If you can’t sign a player the third time, then too bad. That’s why they lose it. Also, any under-the-table agreements to circumvent the draft pool are strictly prohibited. There are no loopholes. I recommend clicking the link and reading Callis’ full recap, there are a lot more changes in there than I highlighted.

More CBA madness: Draft pool even smaller than expected

Via Jim Callis, the pool for the first ten rounds of the draft is closer to $180M than the $200M that was reported last week. It doesn’t sound like a big difference, but it basically means each team will have ~$667k less to spend next draft. The Yankees have signed guys like Graham Stoneburner, Mark Melancon, and Dante Bichette Jr. for close to that amount in recent years.

Furthermore, Callis also says that if teams do not sign a pick, they will not be able to allocate that pick’s money elsewhere. There had been some speculation that clubs with extra picks would simply not sign one of their first rounders, then redistribute the money to get better players with their remaining extra picks. Teams won’t be able to do that, apparently. This new setup is about as close to hard slotting as you can get without actually implementing hard slotting.

CBA Madness: Draft, IFAs, HGH, More

Bud Selig and MLBPA head Michael Weiner smile after taking the screws to the future of baseball. (REUTERS/Brendan McDermid)

Baseball officially announced its new Collective Bargaining Agreement this afternoon, a five-year pact between the owners and players’ association. The deal ensures at least 21 consecutive years of labor peace, which is great for the sport. I’m not so sure we can say the same about the rest of the deal though. Many of the changes will hurt baseball, especially in the long-term.

We’ve already recapped changes to the luxury tax, Type-A and B free agents, and the elimination of the Elias rankings, but that is just the tip of the iceberg. All of the CBA news below comes courtesy of the best reporters in all of sports, our beloved baseball writers. Props specifically go out to Jeff Passan, Buster Olney, Bill Shaikin, Ken Rosenthal, and Danny Knobler. This is not a full recap, but Maury Brown has the entire CBA available. Let’s start with the most significant changes…

Draft Spending Limitations

  • There is no hard slotting, but teams are given a “draft pool” by MLB that they aren’t supposed to exceed. Teams that do exceed their pool by 5% will be taxed at 75%. Spending in excess of 5-10% will result in a 75% tax and a loss of the next year’s first round pick. Spending in excess of 10-15% results in a 100% tax and and loss of first and second round picks. Spending in excess of 15% results in a 100% tax and the loss of two first round picks. That’s harsh.
  • Something called the “Competitive Balance Lottery” gives extra picks to the small-market and low-revenue clubs. Six draft picks immediately after the first round will be given to the ten teams with the ten lowest revenues via a lottery system. A team’s odds of winning the lottery will be based on its winning percentage the prior season. There will be another lottery with six additional picks after the second round for the clubs that miss out on the first set of picks. These Competitive Balance Lottery picks can be traded, but other picks can not.
  • If a player drafted in the tenth round or later signs for $100k or more, the extra money counts against the team’s draft pool. I’m not entirely sure what that means, but I think it means you can sign a player drafted in the tenth round or later for $100k and it will not count against your pool. Don’t quote me on that.
  • The draft signing deadline has been moved up from August 15th to sometime between July 12-18th, depending on the All-Star Game. The college coaches will appreciate this.
  • Drafted players can only sign minor league contracts now, and the top 200 prospects will be subject to mandatory drug testing.

International Spending Limitations

  • Each team will be allowed to spend $2.9M on amateur free agents this year, or a hundred grand less than the Yankees gave Gary Sanchez in 2009. Starting next winter, the worst teams will be allowed to spend ~$5M while the best teams get to spend ~$1.8M.
  • Starting in 2013-2014, teams will be able to trade their international spending cap space, thought clubs will only be able to acquire an additional 50% of their cap. So if the Yankees are limited to a $3M cap, they can only trade for an additional $1.5M.
  • Players under 23 years old and with less than years of professional baseball experience will be considered amateurs and count against the spending cap. That means guys like Yoenis Cespedes and Japanese veterans will be treated as a true free agents. Japanese players run through the posting system will not count against the cap.
  • Players must register with MLB’s scouting bureau in order to be eligible to sign. That should cut down on the number of age and identity fraud cases. The top 100 prospects will be subject to drug testing.
  • A worldwide baseball draft is a “significant possibility” by 2014, and there are incentives in place for both sides to negotiate terms in the future.

Long story short, the MLBPA sold out its future members for the sake of its current members. The draft and international spending limitations are severe and will drive young talent away from the game, and you’ll see legitimate two-sport guys like Zach Lee and Bubba Starling be pushed to college by the spending restrictions. Teams also have little incentive to run a baseball academy in Latin America now. We’ll see the real impact of these changes in five or ten years, when there’s a sudden lack of young talent and barely enough real athletes to play the middle infield. Anyway, here is the lest of the CBA news…

Draft Compensation Changes

  • The following players are Type-A free agents but will be treated as Type-B free agents for the remainder of the offseason: Matt Capps, Francisco Cordero, Octavio Dotel, Ramon Hernandez, and Darren Oliver. A team will not have to give up a draft pick to sign them, and their old team will gain just one supplemental first rounder.
  • The following players are Type-A free agents but will not be treated as “modified” Type-A free agents: Heath Bell, Michael Cuddyer, Kelly Johnson, Ryan Madson, Josh Willingham, and Francisco Rodriguez. A team will not lose a pick to sign them, however their old club will still receive two picks. One will be a first round one spot after the team that signs them, the second a supplemental first rounder.
  • These changes can all be seen on our 2012 Draft Order page.
  • Players must still be offered arbitration if their former club wants to receive draft pick compensation. The deadline to offer arbitration is tomorrow, by the way.

Blood Testing For HGH

  • Players will be tested next Spring Training to determine their energy levels, and those test results will be discarded. Tests will be taken on non-gamedays unless the player volunteers to do it the day of a game. They’re essentially going to test the test, just to see how the players respond physically after giving blood.
  • Once the two sides see how the players respond, they will then determine how and when to proceed with in-season testing. Offseason testing will begin next winter, and the tests will not be random. There has to be reasonable cause.

Instant Replay

  • Replay will be expanding to include fair-or-foul plays as well as “trapped” ball plays. MLB and the umpires’ union must still discuss the final details. Hooray for this.
  • There will also be an “improved process for challenging official scorer decisions.” So now David Ortiz can complain about his RBI total without interrupting his manager’s press conference.

Equipment

  • Players will no longer be allowed to use those low-density maple bats that shatter and turn into dangerous sharp, flying objects.
  • The Great Gazoo helmet, which Frankie Cervelli wears following all his concussions, will be mandatory by 2013. The new version will be less bulky and hilarious looking.

Salaries

  • The minimum salary will rise from $414k this past season to $480k next season, and it will climb to $500k by 2014.
  • The top 22% of players (in terms of service time) with fewer than three years of MLB service will be considered Super Twos. Those folks are arbitration-eligible four times rather than three. It had been the top 17% previously.

New Policies & Programs

  • A new tobacco policy will be instituted, preventing tobacco products from being visible during interviews, interactions with fans, etc. Uniformed personnel can still use chewing tobacco, but the can can’t be visible and a wad of chew in a player’s cheek will draw a slap on the wrist from the union.
  • A “program of mandatory evaluation” is in place for players that commit alcohol-related offenses, including DUIs.
  • There will be some kind of “social media policy,” basically taking all the fun out of MLB players on Twitter.
  • Something called “market disqualification” says the top 15 markets will not be able to receive revenue sharing money by 2016, the final year of this deal.
  • I can’t believe they actually had to write this into the CBA, but there is now a policy in place that protects union members from discrimination stemming from their sexual orientation.

Miscellaneous

  • Participation in the All-Star Game is mandatory unless the player is injured or otherwise excused by the commissioner.
  • Rosters will expand to 26 players for “certain regular or split doubleheaders.” I kinda like that.
  • The extra wildcard team and expanded playoff setup will be instituted immediately, so there will be two wildcard clubs per league next season. It will in fact be a one-game playoff.

The owners get rather drastic spending restrictions on amateur players as well as expanded playoffs while the players get an increased minimum salary, more Super Twos, and better free agent compensation rules. Everyone wins … as long as you’re an owner or a union member.

Report: Luxury tax threshold will remain unchanged for two years

Via Joel Sherman, the luxury tax threshold will remain at $178M for the next two seasons under the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Teams will be taxed 40% on every dollar they spend over that amount. The threshold and tax will be raised to $189M and 50% in 2014, respectively.

The Yankees are the only team in baseball to consistently pay the luxury tax, but other clubs have had to pay on occasion. The Red Sox and Phillies will be awfully close to that threshold next year as well. The Yankees owed $18M last season and $25.7M the year before, bringing their total luxury tax payout to $192.2M since it was instituted in 2003. One of these days they’ll just rename this thing the Yankee Tax and be done with it.

New CBA will include HGH testing, eliminate Elias rankings

Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement has not been officially announced just yet, but details of some rather substantial changes have started to leak out. Here’s the latest….

New CBA will include blood testing for HGH

Via Michael Schmidt, the new CBA will include blood testing for human growth hormone. The testing will begin when players report to Spring Training in February, and a positive test will result in a 50-game suspension. Minor leaguers have been getting tested for HGH for two seasons now.

This is obviously a significant step for baseball and a major concession by the union. None of the other major North American sports leagues allow blood testing, though the International Olympic Committee does. Players that participate in the World Baseball Classic are subject to IOC rules and tests.

Type-A free agent relievers and Elias rankings will be eliminated

Via Ken Rosenthal, all remaining Type-A free agent relievers will not be subject to draft pick compensation this offseason. Teams will not be required to forfeit draft picks to sign them, though their old team will still gain a pick somehow. I’m guessing it’ll be just the supplemental first rounder. Click here to see all the Type-A and B free agents. Other Type-A free agents (Albert Pujols, Jose Reyes, etc.) will still require a team to surrender a draft pick to sign them.

The Elias ranking system will be completely eliminated next offseason. In order to receive draft pick compensation for a top free agent, the player’s team will need to tender them a qualifying offer of at least $12M per season. I’m curious to see how they decide who is and who isn’t a top free agent, that should be interesting. Reportedly, the Yankees will still gain a supplemental first rounder if Type-B free agent Freddy Garcia signs elsewhere this offseason.