The Trade Deadline and the new CBA | The Process Report

The Trade Deadline and the new CBA

Everyone wants the Rays to pursue a big bat or a marquee name, but the new Collective Bargaining Agreement seemingly makes it less likely than before.

The new CBA no longer allows teams to reap draft-pick compensation from free-agents-to-be acquired during the season. As for when a team wants compensation from their own departing players, teams will now be required to make a qualifying offer worth the average of the 125 richest contracts in baseball (or more than $12 million).

These two new foils are designed to eliminate the system-gaming done by the Rays, A’s, Jays, and Red Sox in recent seasons. No longer can a team acquire a player, reach a handshake agreement, and then have the player decline arbitration after the season. For perspective on how this might affect the Rays, consider the players they collected picks for after the 2010 season and their contracts:

Carl Crawford: Seven years, $142 million ($20 million average annual value)
Rafael Soriano: Three years, $35 million (just shy of $12 million AAV)
Joaquin Benoit: Three years, $16.5 million ($5.5 AAV)
Grant Balfour: Two years, $8.1 million ($4 million AAV)
Randy Choate: Two years, $2.5 million ($1.25 million AAV)
Chad Qualls: One year, $2.55 million
Brad Hawpe: One year, $3 million

Under the new rules, it’s possible that the Rays would have only netted one pick—that being for Crawford. Soriano had accepted arbitration the season prior, and none of the other players had reason to be optimistic about a large payday.

Now there is a flipside to the new rules. In theory, it should lower the value of rental players, particularly those who, under the old system, would have qualified for Type B status. Those players, think the Chad Qualls types, should come cheaper. Their current teams no longer have incentive to hold onto them. Instead, they can weigh the offers against the value the player can add over the rest of the season and go from there. A team like Houston, for instance, has no real incentive to hold onto a player like Brandon Lyon.

This aspect should work in the Rays favor. To use another real world example, think about Marco Scutaro. He turns 37 this offseason as he hits the open market. The Rockies aren’t competing this year and might not next season. Besides, Scutaro is having a poor year, arguably his worst since 2004. It might be in Colorado’s best interests to part with Scutaro after this season regardless of what they chose to do at the deadline. With little future value to harvest, Colorado might just take the best offer on the table. (Granted, this scenario ignores the public relations side of things. But let’s be honest: how many fans are going to be upset at a team for moving a shortstop hitting .277/.329/.372?)

Painting the new draft-pick compensation rules as good or bad for the Rays is too simplistic. People are too quick to say the Rays’ inability to land draft picks will sink them ignoring that, prior to 2011, the club had used one compensatory pick in its history. It’s possible, perhaps likely, that the new draft-pick rules could help the Rays patch a hole they previously would have had to leave untouched.



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