New CBA a net loss for baseball 

November, 22, 2011

Earlier today, MLB announced the details of a new collective bargaining agreement, which changes a lot of rules around the draft and international scouting as well as some rules for minor league free agents, on drug testing, and on the All-Star Game. The net result here is a big negative for the sport -- not enough to counteract the benefit of another five years without a labor stoppage, but enough of a negative to hurt the sport in the long run. I would hope Bud Selig's successor as commissioner is open-minded enough to re-evaluate this CBA's provisions for limiting spending on amateur players after we see its effects over the next five years.

I'll respond to MLB's summary of the agreement point by point, omitting points where I don't have any thoughts to share. (The portions in italics come directly from the summary.)

    III-a-3. Article XX(B) free agents signing minor league contracts who are not added to the Opening Day roster or unconditionally released 5 days prior to Opening Day shall receive an additional $100,000 retention bonus and the right to opt out on June 1.

So in effect, it's cheaper to add such minor league free agents to the 40-man roster than it is to stash them in Triple-A all year. This is a huge deal, especially for clubs that were aggressive with minor league free agents. (These rule XX(B) free agents have major league experience and have been outrighted off a 40-man roster before, so they can elect free agency at the end of the regular season if they're not on a 40-man at that time.)

(Update: As it turns out, I confused Article XX(B) with Article XX(D) -- I know what you're thinking, you just did the same thing yesterday -- so the impact of this rule is much less than I indicated on Tuesday. The only free agents affected here are major league free agents -- with six years of major league service time -- who fail to land a major-league deal the following season. That is, if, say, Albert Pujols couldn't get a major-league contract offer and had to accept a minor-league contract for 2012, he'd fall under this new rule. That group might include three to five players per year; Dontrelle Willis was one example from 2011.)
    b. Draft Pick Compensation
    1. Starting in 2012, "Type A" and "Type B" free agents and the use of the Elias ranking system will be eliminated.

Really, the best news I've had all day. This system was designed to drag down free agent salaries. I think we know now that that didn't happen, but like most such taxes, it had unintended consequences -- in this case, limiting the markets for relief pitchers as teams didn't want to give up first-round draft picks to sign them. And the lunacy of some of the Type A and B designations is best consigned to the historical dustbin anyway.

Keith Law

ESPN Senior Writer