Friday, August 17, 2007

Leverage: You're Doing it Wrong, MLB

I don't follow the draft as closely as the Keith Laws of the world, so I was scratching my head a bit when I read a week or two ago about the new use-it-or-lose-it deadline that caused all of those 11th hour signings the other night.

Then I read that the imposition of that deadline was a result in the change to the Basic Agreement during the last labor go-around that was, theoretically anyway, designed to help the teams pressure the players:

When the summary information of Major League Baseball's new basic agreement was sent out to the individual teams last October, one of the subjects covered was the "Rule 4 Draft." . . . the league's general managers and assistant general managers were informed in a memorandum that "several changes were made to the Rule 4 Draft that will increase the Clubs' leverage in negotiations with Draft selections."

In the past those will-I-go-to-college-or-not players were allowed to twist in the wind for as long as a year. While many were ultimately lost to college, wasn't the risk of not signing a big one? After all, if they didn't sign, couldn't they be idled for a long time while they dickered with management, all while watching their friends and colleagues work their way towards the majors? Now the teams seem to be under the gun far more in that, with the deadline, players can be assured of enrolling or re-enrolling in classes in the August right after the draft, and will be on a baseball diamond just after the first of the year, unchanged from their previous schedule.

Maybe this year was a unique situation, but I'm struck by the notion that if keeping draftee contracts low was the goal, MLB didn't exactly think their cunning plan all the way through.


Pete Toms said...

Hey Craig, I have been following this story as well and was curious to see the eventual outcome. Apparently it all turned out to be a non story ( after I wasted time this winter delving into the arcania of the Rule IV draft on Baseball Prospectus ).

Please see the following excerpt from a recent Baseball America piece on this subject.

"MLB designed the deadline to theoretically give some leverage to clubs by limiting extended holdouts. The commissioner's office also reduced its bonus recommendations for each slot in the first five rounds by 10 percent across the board, with the anticipated effect of reducing bonuses."

"The opposite occurred, however. There were 184 picks in the first five rounds in 2007, and 171 of them signed, receiving an average bonus of $685,328. Last year, 179 of the first 184 picks agreed to terms, getting an average bonus of $662,531. So despite the 10 percent reduction in slots, the bonuses rose 3 percent."

Shyster said...

Pete -- that's interesting. Though I suspected that bonuses were up based on the few random signings I looked at, I didn't take the time to look at any of that stuff.

I think it's interesting to look at what happens with the NFL and players who hold out. There is no dispute whatsoever among those who know what they're talking about that players who hold out and stay out of camp or otherwise inactive are at a huge disadvantage. This means, for purposes of signing time is totally on the team's side. While there is always the college/independent league option for baseball players, I have to think that holds true for MLB too, so artificially shortening the signing window can only (in my mind at least) help the players by putting time pressure on the teams that was never there before.

Pete Toms said...

Everybody, Maury Brown included, thinks that "slotting" picks in the Rule IV draft is collusion.

I've wondered why the PA has been quiet on this although as Mr. Brown points out they agreed to the new Rule IV signing deadline of August 15 in the new CBA.

Jim Callis of Baseball America has this to say to a reader on the same subject "They aren't prohibited from colluding concering draftees because draftees aren't part of the union."

So, I don't get it. On the one hand the PA collectively bargains changes to the Rule IV draft which has a direct impact on the draftees but yet they can't defend these same draftees from collusion amongst their employers?

Should I be confused or have I "missed it"

Shyster said...

Pete -- I trust Maury B. on this kind of think more than I trust myself, but I'm wondering if this isn't more akin to a manufacturer's suggested retail price. You don't have to do follow it, and if there are any penalties involved for NOT following it, it is collusion.

It's something I'd want to look at more closely first with my legal pants on, though.