The New CBA: Draft and Player Eligibility

After part one examined the new compensation pick system, in part two, Jason Avery will dive deeper into the new eligibility requirements for both drafted players, as well as players in the system.

The new CBA also establishes a universal signing date of August 15th for all picks to getting signed, which is something that will make things much easier for everyone involved in the draft process. Instead of having things dragged out sometimes close to a year (Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver) in some negotiations, everything will be resolved before school starts at most colleges, so coaches will know ahead how many of their recruits will be on campus, and teams will be able to get their draft choices to instructional ball (those that need extra work), instead of having to wait and see if they'll sign in time (Cameron Maybin and Justin Verlander come to mind). This is something that needed to be done on all sides and is definitely a step in the right direction.

Lastly, the draft-and-follow rule was eliminated, but a player can still keep his pro options open by electing to go to junior college, instead of attending a four-year school. I honestly don't understand what management is trying to do by getting rid of the DFE's. If baseball thinks it's bad business when a player signs even a modest bonus after being a second-day draft pick the previous year, what does it gain by putting junior college players on equal footing with high school and college players?

In the past, when teams controlled the player's rights, most scouts didn't follow up on him, because if the player was good enough, chances are he would've have signed and scouts can't afford to waste days looking at a player they may not get a shot at. Secondly, scouts aren't allowed to have contact with players under control, so it made it hard to gauge signability.

Now that player can make potentially more money, because he is marketing himself in front of all 30 teams, instead of just one.

Also, MLB apparently forgot that the player under control has just as much risk as the team does. Obviously, the team doesn't want to lose a quality player, but if his price tag is deemed excessive, not only does the player run the risk of not being signed by the team that controls him, but his draft stock could plummet to the point where he may find himself back in school (junior college or otherwise) trying to prove to scouts that he is worth a significant bonus.

Tim Smith (now at Arizona State) is a great example. After being drafted twice as a draft-and-follow, Smith had two dominating years at Midland (Texas) JC, but his bonus demands scared teams off, and Smith went undrafted in June and now must showcase himself to a new set of scouts against the stiff competition the Pac-10 will provide.

The JUCO programs will be affected in that kids that were on the fence about going to school, and keeping their pro options open will likely head to the four-year school, because teams can no longer hold their draft rights, so they may feel more secure about going to college and trying again in three years. Players that have more of an inkling for pro ball will still opt for junior college, and this could really help those players that fly under the radar screen during their high school careers, because if they have a breakout season at a junior college, he'll have the opportunity to go out two years sooner and likely get a nice bonus out of it.

With DFE's out of the way, I would be more than willing to bet that you'll see teams target college seniors even more so, as well as JUCO players as a whole (teams may be willing to bring in more guys in instead of following them for a year), and you could see an upswing in lavish late-round bonuses, because the agreement shelved any ideas for eliminating the complex leagues, and the players that are needed to fill those rosters have to come from somewhere.

The independent leagues could also see an upswing in the number of players signed by major league teams as well.

Keep in mind that most players that are signed in Latin America (especially the younger ones) stay at their respective club's academies (either Dominican or Venezuelan) before coming stateside, and teams aren't going to bring older players over if it means blocking those players they just drafted and signed.

One final thought on the DFE rule is this. If DFE's are gone, why wasn't there an announcement that the draft would be shortened? There is no way that teams are going to select 50-plus players, and wind up losing half of them to college. Obviously, this is something that might be being looked at behind the scenes, but one would think logically that the two sides would've had this done beforehand?

One rule that didn't get implemented was the trading of draft choices. Management felt that advisors would try to steer their clients towards to the financial heavyweights, so their clients would get higher bonuses.

Guess what? They already do, and it's happened in every sport. Remember John Elway back in 1983 threatening to play baseball with the Yankees if the Baltimore Colts drafted him? How about Eric Lindros refusing to play for Quebec, and Steve Francis forcing the then-Vancouver Grizzlies to ship him to Houston?

The Tigers have been direct beneficiaries of this in the last two drafts when Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller's supposed bonus demands allowed Detroit to take them at lower spots then where they should've gone. The Red Sox have plucked guys like Daniel Bard and Craig Hansen in the last two years. How about the Diamondbacks' 2006 haul with Max Scherzer (everything points to him signing eventually), Brett Anderson, and Dallas Buck?

How about where some of Scott Boras' guys have been picked? Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver were worthy of going in the first 5-10 picks back in 2004, but fell to middle of the first round due to signability. Even though it took both of them nearly a year to sign, I don't think the Angels and Diamondbacks are regretting those picks at all.

My point in all of this is that if a team feels they can get more value out of trading the pick or extra selections, they should have the ability to do so, and not be wed to it.

Even though MLB will say that these changes will help teams, the overriding factor for clubs will be whether baseball can keep its slotting system in place, and how many teams they can bully into toeing the line.

There were a whopping 46 six-figure bonuses handed out after the seventh round with seven teams (Red Sox, Cubs, Braves, Cardinals, Indians, Blue Jays, and Yankees) combining for 29 of them. The major question that needs to be answered is are the other teams going to continue to allow the aggressive teams continue to stockpile talent, or be on Bud Selig's Christmas card list.

Free agency is already disproportionate in terms that the top talent always seems to make its way to the wealthier teams in the game. If the other owners don't make a stand (especially against MLB) and encourage spending in the draft, then the draft will become like free agency, and the talent will not be divided evenly, which defeats the purpose of even having it.

The agreement also adjusted how many years a minor leaguer must spend in the professional ranks before being eligible for the 40-man roster. In the past, it was three years for players who were 19 and over when they signed, and four years for those players who were 18 and under when they signed. Those numbers were increased by a year for both, and go into effect immediately.

Under the old CBA, the Tigers would've had to make a decision on Jeff Larish after next season on whether or not to put him on the 40-man roster, but now they can give Larish two more years at the most before deciding (of course, Larish could make it to the majors beforehand).

This will give teams even more flexibility with their 40-man roster, and will also give those players who make a switch in positions even more time to get acclimated to their new home, and for the club to see whether the change will take or not.

This will also help those players signed out of Latin America, who usually spend at least two years in the DSL/VSL before coming to the states. These changes will also severely limit the pool of players available for the Rule 5 draft.

Overall, I think all MLB did was keep the status quo with the draft.

They had a chance to do some far-reaching goals, but failed. If baseball is about saving money, then why did they keep the compensation picks? They could've grandfathered it out, but apparently, they are fine spending upwards of 15-20 million dollars on sandwich picks, and with the draft-and-follow gone, the top JUCO talents will be seen by all teams and be able to make more money by being seen by 30 teams, instead of one. The universal signing date was a nice touch, and the 40-man roster rules will help teams, but some of the changes just don't make sense to this draft follower.


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