MLB CBA: How Will New Draft Rules Affect Pirates?

You can read the full text of Major League Baseball’s new Collective Bargaining Agreement here. There’s a lot in it, but for Pirates fans, the biggest sticking point is new rules regarding spending in the draft.

A. Each Club will be assigned an aggregate Signing Bonus Pool prior to each draft.
For the purpose of calculating the Signing Bonus Pools, each pick in the first 10
rounds of the draft has been assigned a value … A Club’s Signing Bonus Pool equals the sum of the values of that Club’s selections in the first 10 rounds of the draft. Players selected after the 10th round do not count against a Club’s Signing Bonus Pool if they receive bonuses up to $100,000. Any amounts paid in excess of $100,000 will count against the Pool.
B. Clubs that exceed their Signing Bonus Pools will be subject to penalties as
follows:
Excess of Pool Penalty (Tax on Overage/Draft Picks)
• 0-5% 75% tax on overage
• 5-10% 75% tax on overage and loss of 1st round pick
• 10-15% 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st and 2nd round picks
• 15%+ 100% tax on overage and loss of 1st round picks in next two drafts

Excuse the long blockquote, but it’s probably necessary here. In plain English, basically what’s going on is that the Pirates and some other teams have been spending more on certain draft picks than Major League Baseball and the players would prefer. That includes million-dollar bonuses for pitchers like Zack Von Rosenberg and Colton Cain and, most notoriously, $5 million for high school outfielder Josh Bell in last year’s draft. The Bucs won’t be allowed to do that anymore. They could choose to break the rule, but for a team that picks near the beginning of the draft most years, the punishment of losing a first-round draft pick is very serious.

The Pirates have been the highest-spending team in the draft the last four years. If they continue to play poorly at the major-league level, they’ll still spend more than most teams, because Major League Baseball will give them a bigger pool to work with. But their days of spending $5 million on Josh Bell are, unfortunately, over. (And it’s likely that players like Bell will simply end up going to college now.) There are a few bonuses in the new CBA for teams like the Pirates, such as the ability to spend more on international talent than large-market teams do, and a special lottery that would allow teams like the Pirates an extra draft pick after the first round. But for right now, it’s the draft spending issue that is most significant.

You can read more about the Pirates and the new CBA at Bucs Dugout.

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