To that end, Rosenthal reports that the dynamic I’d mostly assumed would prevail has, in fact, come to pass. While Selig is adamantly in favor of the idea, there’s not much of a will to fight for it amongst the various clubs, and some clubs are outright opposed to the idea, according to Rosenthal. Apparently the two sides are settling on some sort of luxury tax equivalent for draft spending.
The nature of the union:
This isn’t relevant to the agreement itself, but I thought this was a pretty solid point about MLBPA in general, that illustrates exactly why the union has become the powerful player it is in the game:
On the players’ side, a superstar such as Derek Jeter might not strike on behalf of high school and college players. The union, however, views slotting as a precursor to a major league salary cap, and it has succeeded over the years in educating players about the broader implications of capping spending on picks.
In other words, the union leadership structure has been very good over the years about countering the natural impulse of the individual members to put their interests over the interests of future players, and shift earnings from those future players to the present. This level of solidarity amongst the union members, and as a general guiding principle of the union, has made MLBPA a much more unified organization with a much larger bargaining presence. That probably has a lot to do with the nature of the game itself. I might criticize the NFLPA for being more or less the polar opposite of its baseball counterpart on this score, but given that their members have non-guaranteed contracts and each snap could be a player’s last, it’s reasonably understandable that they want to squeeze every dime they can out of the game, no matter where it comes from.
Whatever the reason, the baseball union doesn’t operate this way, and it’s given them much more power than the other sports’ players’ unions, and the sport is much stronger for it. Whether you like the union or not, it’s impossible to escape the conclusion that labor relations have gotten infinitely better in baseball since the owners gave up on trying to break the Players Association, and that they presently enjoy the best relationship of any league and its players in all of North American sports by a pretty large margin. Having two relatively equal partners in the negotiations is also good for the sport, as this example illustrates. Left to their own devices, the owners would probably go along with Selig on slotting and harm the long term interests of the sport in favor of saving a few bucks in the short term.
Free agent compensation:
As expected, the system of compensating teams for losing free agents with draft picks will be overhauled. Rosenthal reports that the union is particularly adamant about this, as Type A status often causes several free agents to lose value as teams fret over forfeiting a draft pick for them as well.
For my part, the more I’ve thought about it, the sillier the entire scheme has come to seem. I think the problem, at root, is that people conflate the MLB draft with the NFL draft. That was certainly evident last year when everyone was lamenting that the Yankees had given Tampa Bay the 31st overall pick to sign Rafael Soriano. At the end of the day, the Yankees probably would have picked Dante Bichette Jr. with that selection, and ultimately got him anyway. That’s because the MLB draft is much more fluid than the NFL draft, with much more variance in draft strategies, player evaluation, philosophies, etc. The only individual picks that have significant value are those at the top of the first round, and those are protected (another fact that underscores how goofy the system is; consider that in the not unlikely circumstance that the Orioles sign Prince Fielder and the Cubs land Albert Pujols this offseason, neither the Brewers nor Cardinals would receive a first round compensation pick, and the Orioles and Cubs would both pick in the top six of the 2012 draft).
All in all, I think the best tweak for the system is something that doesn’t require the forfeiting of any first round picks, but I would be broken up if they just scrapped the scheme altogether either.