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Early speculation on what the new CBA means for the Jays

Will the new CBA destroy our drafts?
Will the new CBA destroy our drafts?

Overall spending on the draft will decrease

The slot recommendations will change, as they will be negotiated between MLB and the union (source), but exactly how high the new "limits" on draft spending will be is still unclear. There will probably be no way to keep spending around 15 million dollars on a draft like the Nats, Pirates, Royals etc. did the past year. Yes, teams still could spend money like madmen, but a lot (half) of it would go to the new tax system, and they'd also give up a lot of future first- and second-rounders. Looking at the apparent maximum penalty, which is paying 100% taxes and giving up two future first-round picks, I'm not completely convinced that, depending on how everything plays out, it would not be beneficial to simply accept the penalty and go totally bonkers on draft spending, given that it's still almost pocket change compared to what's spent in the free agent market. That totally depends on how much assumption 1a becomes a reality. I wonder what would happen if a team kept surrendering their top picks, all the way up to (for example) 2050? Would they start to lose second and lower round picks?

Draft picks will probably have to accept lower bonuses

Going to college won't help draftees much, as overall spending has simply decreased, and there's no reason to assume that bonuses for college players will be unaffected. The little leverage draftees had has been reduced to a new low. The ones who still have some leverage are of course the multi-sport athletes, who can simply go play football or basketball. I'm sure some articles will soon be written about it, but I do wonder how large the number of multi-sport athletes who sign with baseball teams every year is, anyway. Since baseball still provides a good chance to get decent money, I think initial reactions about lots of potential quality going to other sports could be a bit exaggerated.

The potential high school draftees who are not multi-sport talents still have plenty of reasons to sign and go pro:

1) High/college picks receive less money because of slotting just like lower round picks do
2) The gap between higher and lower bonuses is less in terms of absolute money
3) Since there is less money in bonuses, it would be advantageous to start a pro career quickly, to get to where the real money is (hit free agency early!)
4) Should the number of players who go to college instead of turning pro increase, it will be harder to perform and stand out with tougher competition, and it becomes more attractive to take the money that's on the table now, instead of gambling on a higher bonus.

The type of players which are drafted probably changes

Let's take the Jays' 2010 draft as an example. Drafting Dickie Joe Thon in the fifth round and giving him 1.5 million dollars is no longer a smart thing to do. Of course, the Jays could have drafted him 34th overall. With 1.5 million equalling the recommended slot for a 10th overall pick, Thon might just have had to accept the fact that he would be unlikely to get that kind of money under this slotting system, and he might have had the sense of reality to accept a slot deal of more than 900,000 dollars. Since Aaron Sanchez and Noah Syndergaard were given deals lower than slot, with the hard slotting system they might have been drafted lower than they actually were in 2010. Now, the Jays probably simply draft the "Sanchez-type" and let the "Thon-type" be delusional about his qualities. A larger portion of talented players probably will not be drafted/signed because their opinions of themselves do not match those of the MLB teams' scouts. The type of player who will sign for below slot could very well be more in demand than previously.

The relative value of a draft pick goes up

By adding a draft pick, you add to your total slot and so to the total amount of money you can spend on the draft. And since spending money on the draft is more efficient than spending it elsewhere (free agency), that is a good thing. However, extra draft picks are not as easy to acquire anymore...

Draft picks will be provided by players who are actually good, not by Miguel Olivo or the like

Because teams will need to offer about 12.5 million to free agents to get compensation, relievers are done giving teams draft picks. I like this change a lot, even if it does prevent AA from gaming the system like he used to do. Players on the Jays who would probably exceed 12.5 million in value: Jose Bautista (duh), Yunel Escobar, Brett Lawrie, Ricky Romero, Brandon Morrow (assuming FIP works for him) and possibly Henderson Alvarez and Kelly Johnson. These kind of players, the solid regulars and stars increase somewhat in value, while marginal players the likes of Jose Molina and Jon Rauch decrease in value due to no longer providing extra draft picks to teams.

International free agent spending will even out

Initially, teams will be able to spend only 2.9 million on IFAs, and starting in 2013 that amount will depend on a team's place in the standings in the previous season, with the Orioles worst team limited to 5 million and the best team limited to 1.8 million bucks. No more IFA madness from teams like the Rangers, although teams can trade some of their budget to other teams, but they can only acquire up to 50% of their starting budget. With the Rangers (and others) not snapping up as high a percentage of the highly rated international (read: Latin American) youngsters, more teams will be in the mix for those guys. If the international draft becomes a reality, some teams may go back to spending a large percentage of their draft budget on international signings, but they'll still be limited by the slotting system.

IFAs lose much of their leverage

I don't know how much is spent on IFAs right now, but 2.9 million per team seems quite low. For reference, Adonys Cardona seems to have received 2.8 million on his own. Seemingly for no reason other than a desire of some baseball team owners to save some money, these kids will now likely get less money. I would think that this affects the big bonus players the most, like Nomar Mazara this past year or our very own Adonys last year.

So what will it mean for the Jays?

Personally, I do not think the draft changes will be as detrimental to the Jays as they seem at first glance. Picking out relatively cheap players with upside (Syndergaard, Nicolino, hopefully Musgrove, King Scrabble III) has been a strength for AA and his scouting team so far, and he should be able to still profit in the coming drafts, though the ability to score easy draft picks will hurt him. Trading for compensation-eligible players in the last year of their contract will be much harder than signing a reliever/catcher to a low-risk deal. The Jays do have the potential financial power to compete in free agency and sign these kinds of players (and then profit from both their skills on the field as well as the pick the Jays hopefully receive), but the advantage they had has been significantly reduced.

The international free agent spending cap may end up hurting even more, depending on the ability of previously uninterested teams to profit from this weird (insane?) part of the new agreement. The Jays were just starting to spend some serious cash in the IFA market, and although their Latin American assets will still be of use, they will have to be content with getting a lesser share of the talent produced by the international market.

It will be interesting to see how this new CBA changes the draft and international free agent market. But interesting doesn't necessarily mean fun, especially for Jays fans. We've still got some extra picks for the 2012 draft, so the 2010-2012 period of drafting may turn out to be a crucial period in Jays history. Then again, it may not. Drafts remain a bit of a crapshoot, after all.