CBA: International Market
The new CBA has been released and with it came many questions about how baseball treated the acquisition of talent from the amateur ranks. To me, it was the only part of the CBA I really had strong feelings about and so it’s the one I’m going to write about.
Let’s begin by getting one thing clear. The CBA is agreed upon by two groups: MLB owners and the MLBPA. Nobody else’s opinion ultimately matters. With that being said let’s get into it.
I’m going to start with the cap on international signing bonuses. People seem to think this limits teams ability to sign amateur talent in Latin America. I disagree. What this means for kids in Latin America is smaller signing bonuses. The truth of it is, the opportunity for these kids to come to the U.S. and play professional baseball is still an opportunity of a lifetime. Depressing bonuses by 25% or 50% or whatever the fallout winds up being will not change that. So Miguel Sano only gets 2 mil, the $100,000 guys only get $40,000. Does that really matter from a baseball perspective? I say no. The biggest argument is that this is unfair to the players. Of course it is. That is why I wrote the second paragraph. Latin American signees are not in the players union, so it is ultimately not the players unions responsibility to get them more money. Also, if these bonuses are reduced that extra money previously being spent on these bonuses could likely go towards major league salaries. A chance of increasing MLBPA member’s salaries is exactly what the MLBPA is for, they win here. For our other negotiating party, the owners, they win too. As I said a limit on spending internationally will not affect the amount of money pulled in by major league clubs. Same revenue + less spending = profit. Some owners can choose to pocket this money; others will reinvest it in the club. Either way, another win.
An argument I’ve heard against this is that it creates a market where potential contracts these players receive will all look very similar, resulting in players choosing teams for reasons besides contract size. I disagree with this. Even in an open market, teams create player evaluations and base offers off of those evaluations. Evaluations for players are bound to have differences for each team. What teams must decide is how much of their budget they can allot to a one player. Finally, each team may spend the same amount this offseason, but in future offseasons the available amount of money for Latin American bonuses changes by major league team record the year previous. This also will change the amount of money a player is offered because with different caps, 1 million to one team is different than 1 million to another team. Different evaluations, different spending caps, as well as organizational philosophy on balancing elite talent/money with signing multiple players creates enough variables that players will still receive different dollar amounts from different teams.
I do have two issues with the spending cap. First, I feel teams should be free to spend however much money in whatever part of the game they so choose (as evident in my Right of First Refusal post). This budget does not allow for Texas to spend 17 million dollars in one year like they did in 2011. Second I dislike using major league record as the basis for a team’s spending budget. The current major league roster does not properly reflect organizational health. Teams can go all in on the major league roster and compete but be hurt long-term. Two current examples of this are the White Sox and the Phillies. Chicago went all in with veterans since their 2005 run and now the organization is in rough shape. The team has been competitive in recent years though and this cap would have kept them from spending money in Latin America and building a talent base with which to replace these veterans. That they don’t have these prospects now is of their own doing, the Phillies will not even have the option. Philadelphia is headed downward. They have a below average farm system due to trades for Hunter Pence, Roy Oswalt, and Roy Halladay. They have an aging core and an awful contract for Ryan Howard that will limit the team financially in the future. The way Philly could avoid that slide is by bringing in young talent to replace their veterans. Because of their on field success in 2011 and probably in 2012 it will be hard for them to pick up the high impact talent they need. In the end it all comes down to money. Despite my complaints the bottom line is this new arrangement in Latin America benefits the owners and major league players equally.
Finally, I’ll end the international signing section with answers to questions I have seen many places and you may have read answer to many places.
- This does not affect Japanese players or the posting system at all. MLB has had an understanding with the NPB about player moves for almost 20 years and it would require NPB cooperation to change the posting system
- It does not affect Yoenis Cespedes. The rules do not apply to Cuban players who are either older than 23 (Cespedes is 26) or have played professionally for 3 years (in Cuba).
As for our CBA coverage, I will be writing at least one more article on the draft but after that there hasn’t been much talk going forward between Wiers and I about how we are going to handle it. Stay tuned for more articles.