The off-season focus is generally on player moves, designed to give each team a better chance to compete in future years. This off-season we not only have the player moves to focus on, but we also have the Collective Bargaining Agreement discussions between Major League Baseball and the Player’s Union. Ken Rosenthal has an update on the CBA negotiations, which can be found at Fox Sports. The big items that impact the Pirates:
-Major League Baseball wants to strike a deal during the upcoming World Series, although Rosenthal mentions there’s a 50/50 chance of this happening. He also adds that both sides are more motivated to meet the target of the start of free agency, which begins five days after the World Series ends.
-A big issue has been hard slotting in the draft, with the owners, specifically Bud Selig, wanting to implement this. Obviously hard slotting will hurt a team like the Pirates, who go to the extreme with over-slot deals. The Pirates spent more on the draft in the last four years than any other team, due to the lack of hard slotting, and adding a slotting system will hurt their chances to stockpile talent through the draft. It will prevent them from adding guys like Josh Bell for $5 M in the second round, as well as spending $1.2 M on ninth rounder Clay Holmes.
Rosenthal mentions that the two sides are far apart on the issue, but mentions that the two sides could come closer together. I’m not sure if that means the players accepting hard slotting, or the owners giving up on that idea. Personally, it seems to me that Selig cares more about the PR benefits of announcing a deal during the World Series. That could be a benefit, as it provides less time to discuss the hard slotting issue.
-The deal is expected to include a one game wild card round, adding a fifth playoff team in each league. It’s also expected to include two 15-team leagues, with the Houston Astros being the most likely team to move from the NL to the AL. That can’t happen until the new Astros’ owner is approved.
-There is also the chance that the new deal could include a provision for a World wide draft within a year. It’s hard to say how this could affect the Pirates. In one hand, the current system benefits them, as they can sign guys like Luis Heredia as the top bidder (had there been a draft, Heredia could have gone to the Washington Nationals in 2010, as they would have had the first pick). On the other side of that, it really levels the inefficiency of the Japanese market. It would allow rebuilding teams the opportunity to get guys like Yu Darvish or Daisuke Matsuzaka, rather than seeing them go to big market teams like the Red Sox and Yankees.
Ideally, for the Pirates, the deal won’t include hard slotting. If small market teams have any shot to compete, it’s through home grown talent. The best way to get that home grown talent is through the draft, and teams can increase the amount of talent by going over-slot on hard to sign prep players, and hoping that they develop in to first round caliber talents while in the farm system, rather than while they’re in college.