The new CBA includes numerous new rules to restrain teams like the Yankees from finding young talent. The previous Rule 4 Draft rules, the First-Year Player Draft in June, already included a draft order that hurt winning teams. Despite the picks being ordered by reverse standings, the Yankees and other rich teams had previously offered players large signing bonuses in their later turns, thus getting talented players that cheap teams could not sign. The Yankees also took advantage of the international market, where the spending was largely unrestricted.
The rules changed tremendously in 2012. Though teams could technically offer whatever they wanted to players on both the international market and in the amateur draft, taxes and future signing restrictions now act as a big enough deterrent for teams to actually follow these guidelines. If you spend too much in the draft, depending on your overage, you can be subject to a 75-100% tax, and could lose up to two years of first round picks. Similar rules follow the international signing bonus pools, where all teams are now given a $2.9 million cap to spend in one year, and then an extra amount based on how poorly they played the previous year. If you go over this amount by a certain percentage, you’ll begin to see taxes and restrictions on spending in the next season.
For teams that win, it’s now very hard to get an edge on young talent. There’s no doubt that the goal of the new CBA, at least in the eyes of Major League Baseball, was to create a more competitive playing field that benefited the game. What we received benefited the owners. These restrictions will now limit the overall money that teams spend on young players, and bonuses will thus fall dramatically. I’m not sure you could say it’s bad for the game, but it’s hard to imagine this evens the playing field when losing teams like the Pirates still fail to sign their first round picks because of their slot limit.
Meanwhile, the Yankees seem to have figured out a way to circumvent some of the CBA’s restrictions. Now that Rafael Soriano has signed with the Nationals, and Nick Swisher has signed with the Indians, the Yankees have three first round picks in the 2013 draft. The placement will likely change a bit, but those three picks are projected to be 27th, 31st, and 32nd overall. This gives the team fairly early picks, but more importantly, it’ll allow them to spend around $5 million in bonuses, which is well over $3 million more than they were allowed in 2012. This is on par with the slot bonuses of the 4th or 5th overall picks, which puts them in great shape for the draft.
After the 2013 season, the Yankees will obviously line up for at least one first round pick in the 2014 draft, since I doubt they’ll lose this pick by signing a big free agent in their budget year. They’ll also have Curtis Granderson, Robinson Cano, Hiroki Kuroda, Phil Hughes, Andy Pettitte, Mariano Rivera, and Kevin Youkilis reaching free agency. Depending on what happens next season, these guys may be worth qualifying offers, which would net them additional draft picks for 2014.
It’s hard to believe that the Yankees may have the most first round picks in 2013, but this could be a trend. Despite the CBA trying to limit the Yankees spending limits, the team has found a way to use money to get young talent. Their ability to spend big on one-year deals could allow them to annually pick up free agents that will net them draft picks the following year. This year’s Kuroda and Youkilis signing could be the beginning of that.