How the new CBA changes baseball
Jayson Stark [ARCHIVE]
November 23, 2011
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"multi-sport" players who have football or basketball scholarships that give teams the freedom, as in the past, to cite special circumstances as a reason for giving out contracts beyond the norm.

- The date for signing draft picks will move from mid-August to mid-July. "There's just a perception among clubs that, whenever the deadline is, that's when players will sign," Manfred said. "Moving up the signing date gets players on the field."

- If teams spend more than 5 percent more on draft picks than their bonus pool says they should spend, they get penalized by losing picks. And those extra picks will wind up in the hands of smaller-revenue teams, who can then take a player or (ta-taaaa) trade the picks. It's the first time in history that clubs will be allowed to trade draft choices -- but those are the only picks they'll be permitted to trade. All other draft picks remain untradable.

We are the world

The new rules for signing international players are even murkier. Initially, there's going to be a bonus pool for those players, too. Down the road, there's still hope for a worldwide draft. And the new agreement adds drug testing for top international prospects, too.

But within the sport, there is still massive skepticism this is going to fly. Those bonus pools will be set at only $2.9 million per team in the first year of the agreement -- a figure that wouldn't even pay for one year of Aroldis Chapman. The pools will then range from $4.5 million down to $1.7 million per team in the second year. And it's still unclear how they would be applied to players from Cuba, for instance.

So an official of one team says: "I don't see how it's enforceable. It wouldn't surprise me if somebody from Venezuela files an antitrust suit. I can't see Hugo Chavez going for this."

Meanwhile, an agent who does extensive business in Latin America predicts these rules could lead to "all sorts of shady behavior, such as making payments under the table. Unless there are draconian penalties attached -- such as the loss of two or three first-round picks if a team is caught cheating -- it seems like the unintended consequences could be both numerous and counterproductive."

Shady behavior in Latin America? C'mon. That could never happen. Could it?

The revenue-sharing police force

There was a time in these negotiations when it looked as if the good old Competitive Balance Tax (a.k.a., the luxury tax) might not apply just to teams that spent "too much" on payroll. There was also lots of talk about a tax for teams that spent "too little" on their big league roster. (A $50 million threshold was kicked around, sources say.)

In the end, the tax on the bottom-feeders was dropped. But the revenue-sharing system is still changing in several important ways:

- If a team is receiving those big revenue-sharing bucks, it will no longer be allowed to spend that money on paying down debt, which has been a popular alibi over the years.

- Teams also now have to report specifically how they spent their revenue-sharing handouts to improve their big league team. No more generalities allowed.

- The union also pressed for, and got, a new rule that directly connects revenue-sharing money to big league payroll. So if you're getting revenue-sharing checks, the payroll of your 40-man roster now has to be at least 25 percent larger than the amount you're receiving. In other words, if your revenue-sharing check is for $40 million, your big league payroll needs to be at least $50 million. If it isn't, Weiner said, "you have the burden of proving you're in compliance" with the rule requiring that money to be spent on improving the major league team. In the past, that burden fell on the union.

- It wasn't so long ago that teams like the Phillies, Mets and Angels were GETTING revenue-sharing money, based on their revenues -- or lack thereof. That's about to become impossible. By the end of this labor deal in 2016, teams in the 15 largest markets will no longer be allowed to receive revenue-sharing welfare, no matter how lousy their TV contract or attendance may be.

- So which clubs will that affect? One source tells the 15 teams that will be ineligible for revenue sharing by 2016 are the Yankees, Mets, Dodgers, Angels, Cubs, White Sox, Phillies, Red Sox, Rangers, Braves, Nationals, Blue Jays, Astros, Giants and A's. But there's an asterisk attached in the case of the A's. They'll be eligible until their stadium situation gets resolved -- then will join the other teams on this list. So that leaves the Astros, Nationals, Blue Jays and Braves as the teams most affected -- and most motivated to increase their revenue streams over the next few years.

In other news

If you read through all the small print -- and there's plenty of it -- you'll also find these fascinating new stipulations in this deal:

- Sound those trumpets. More replay is coming next year. You can add fair/foul calls and trap/catch to the list. 'Bout time.

- Players will now be "required" to attend the All-Star Game -- unless they're hurt or "otherwise excused by the Office of the Commissioner." Too bad this rule can't apply to Manny Ramirez retroactively.

- All players will be wearing more concussion-proof helmets by 2013. MLB has sent Rawlings back to the drawing board to design a helmet that protects players against pitches thrown at up to 100 mph -- but one that isn't as bulky as the previous concussion-proof models.

- Teams are going to be allowed to expand to a 26-man roster for day-night doubleheaders -- assuming those doubleheaders are scheduled with at least 48 hours' notice. That's a recommendation of Bud Selig's special committee for on-field matters.

- So why is that doubleheader rule noteworthy? Because Manfred said baseball is considering allowing teams to schedule one split doubleheader per season as it wrestles with new schedule issues related to year-round interleague play and the expanded postseason.

- The luxury tax thresholds won't be changing at all in 2012 or 2013. They'll remain at $178 million, then will rise to $189 million for 2014-16. The hope is that by the end of the agreement, no team will be paying it. If the Yankees keep exceeding that threshold, though, their tax rate will jump to 50 percent from the current 40 percent, much to the Steinbrenner family's delight.

- More players with between two and three years' service will now be eligible for "Super-Two" arbitration fun. So does this mean teams will be willing to wait until July, or even later, to call up their hot prospects, just so they can avoid having them qualify for early arbitration? Stay tuned.

- And last but obviously not least, a big salute to the players for...
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