The new collective bargaining agreement, announced Tuesday at the World Series, includes several important changes to the amateur draft and the rules concerning roster construction.
There is now an August 15th deadline for signing all draft choices from the June draft, so teams will have approxiamately ten weeks to sign their picks. This eliminates draft and follow players, meaning a team can no longer draft a high school player or a freshmen junior college player and monitor his progress for a year at a junior college before deciding whether or not to sign the player.
Scouts will still have to monitor junior colleges, but they will not have to keep up with "their" players drafted a year earlier. But the junior college route has been especially helpful to the Braves, who have signed seventeen junior college players in the last three years. The Braves liked the process of drafting high school kids late in the draft and then monitoring their progress as a JUCO player for the next year. It allowed a junior college to somewhat develop a few players every year. The Braves even re-drafted six players this June that they had drafted a year ago in the 2005 draft.
The changes will be in effect starting with next year's draft, so the players the Braves drafted last June as draft and follows can still be signed next spring.
These changes will mean that players that are drafted will have to make a big decision. Under the previous rules, a player drafted later in the draft could go to a JUCO for a year before signing with the pro team that drafted them. But now that player will have to decide if it's too big a gamble to forego a chance at a pro contract. This gives a lot of leverage to the teams, since the players will have to gamble that they might or might not get drafted again if they do not sign out of high school.
The changes are also a bit confusing considering the reported desire last year to eliminate the rookie levels of the minor leagues. With these new rules, teams might sign more players (to smaller financial deals), which might force some teams to need an extra affiliate in their farm system. It will also make the teams much more careful on who they draft and who they want to sign.
The new CBA also includes changes in the rules regarding the Rule V draft. Now players that were 18 years old or younger when they first signed a pro contract can wait until the fifth (instead of the fourth) Rule V before they are eligible, while those players that were 19 or older have four (instead of three) Rule V drafts before they are eligible. This gives clubs an extra year to develop and evaluate their draft picks, instead of losing them to clubs that may take the players in the Rule V draft.
This change will immediately help the Braves, who were facing critical decisions on players from the 2003 draft. Now only older college players from the 2003 draft will have to be placed on the 40-man roster or lost in the Rule V, while no players at all from the 2004 draft are eligible.
Here are the Braves' minor leaguers that must be placed on the 40-man roster next month or could be lost in the Rule V draft in December:
Now from this list of 32 players, only a few could be nabbed in the Rule V by another team, making it crucial for the Braves to make decisions on them. Dan Smith and Sean White are two pitchers that might be attractive to other clubs. Third baseman Wes Timmons might be a candidate, as could outfielder Gregor Blanco
But check out the list of players the Braves would have had to protect under the prior rules. Now these players do not have to be protected until next winter:
Jo Jo Reyes
Harrison, Reyes, Saltalamacchia, Pope, and Jones would have certainly been placed on the 40-man roster. Schreiber, Sammons, and Holt would have been tough calls. So that's 5-8 players that now do not have to be protected until next winter. Under the previous rules, the players that now have to be protected (White, Smith, Blanco, Timmons) would have certainly be left off in favor of the players that now wait another year until they are placed on the 40-man roster.
If the Braves had known about these changes, they might not have lost reliever Ken Ray or minor league shortstop Luis Hernandez on waivers two weeks ago. Those two lost their 40-man spots so the team could protect players like Reyes, Harrison, and Saltalamacchia. Also, Kevin Barry, who was taken off the 40-man roster, cleared waivers, and then outrighted to Triple-A Richmond, could be placed back on the roster if the Braves are afraid he might be selected in the Rule V. Barry might have a better shot of getting taken more than Sean White or Dan Smith, considering his big league experience.
The moves could also mean that some of the Braves' six-year minor league free agents, particularly Triple-A right-hander Matt Wright, could be re-signed and placed on the 40-man roster now that those other higher rated prospects do not have to be protected.
So the changes in the new collective bargaining agreement will be a definite positive for the Braves in the short-term, but the club might have to revamp, as every other club will have to do as well, its strategy a bit with the draft and follow process now eliminated.
Finally, here's a look at the Braves current 40-man roster:
(which now stands at 36)
01. John Smoltz
02. Tim Hudson
03. Mike Hampton
04. Chuck James
05. Kyle Davies
06. Horacio Ramirez
07. Bob Wickman
08. Macay McBride
09. Chris Reitsma
10. Blaine Boyer
11. Joey Devine
12. Tyler Yates
13. Lance Cormier
14. Oscar Villarreal
15. Chad Paronto
16. Phil Stockman
17. Anthony Lerew
18. Jose Ascanio
19. Manny Acosta
20. Peter Moylan
21. Brian McCann
22. Brayan Pena
23. Willy Aybar
24. Marcus Giles
25. Chipper Jones
26. Adam LaRoche
27. Pete Orr
28. Tony Pena
29. Martin Prado
30. Edgar Renteria
31. Scott Thorman
32. Matt Diaz
33. Jeff Francoeur
34. Kelly Johnson
35. Andruw Jones
36. Ryan Langerhans
Bill Shanks is the author of Scout's Honor: The Bravest Way To Build A Winning Team, a look inside the Braves‘ traditional scouting and player development philosophies. He can also be heard regularly on the Braves Radio Network. Email Bill at firstname.lastname@example.org.
New CBA creates a few changes for the Braves
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