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New MLB labor deal hurts A’s

While the NFL and NBA have dealt with work stoppages this year, Major League Baseball and the Players’ Association announced on Tuesday that they have come to an agreement on a new five-year collective bargaining agreement.

But just because the two sides were able to agree on a new deal 19 days before the current contract was set to expire doesn’t mean this is a good deal.

In fact, there are very few changes that actually make sense. And quite a few of the changes will make life harder for the A’s.

We already knew that the Astros would be joining the AL West. That does the A’s no favors. But changes to the first-year player draft and the international free agent market will hinder the way small-market teams like the A’s build their teams.

Teams like the A’s, Royals and Pirates can’t compete for juicy free agents like Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder. They have to uncover talent through the draft or the international market. Under the previous CBA, teams were free to spend whatever they wanted on the players they drafted or scouted outside of the U.S. MLB would suggest how much a team should pay a specific draft pick, but teams weren’t bound by it.

But under the new agreement, every team will have a limit to the amount of money they can spend in the first ten rounds of the draft. That amount will fluctuate based on where teams draft. This will cause teams to change how they draft. High school players that enter the draft, but commit to a college can set a high price for themselves, knowing that if a team isn’t willing to meet that price, they can go to college. Lots of teams liked to take chances on those players.

But now, they won’t be able to do that because if they drafted the player and signed him, they use up most of their allotted budget for the first ten rounds. If they draft the player, and he doesn’t sign, they’ve wasted a pick.

All that being said, teams can go over the allotted amount for the first ten rounds, but they would face severe luxury taxes and the possibility of losing future first- or second- round draft picks. It’s just not worth it for small-market teams. The A’s wouldn’t be able to afford the tax. Jim Callis over at Baseball America did the calculation and figured out that a majority of MLB teams would have faced a penalty if the current rules had been in place for this year’s draft.

Spending on international free agents will be drastically reduced. For the 2012-13 signing period, all MLB teams will have the same allocated amount to spend on players from the Dominican Republic, Venezuela, Puerto Rico, etc. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports believes that amount will be $2.9 million. In 2008, the A’s gave Michael Ynoa a $4.25 million signing bonus.

This past season, the Royals, Indians, Pirates, Blue Jays and Padres all gave out international signing bonuses greater than the Yankees and Red Sox top signing.

The international stage was the one place where those teams, as well as the A’s could compete with the big boys. They have all set up facilities on foreign soil and are able to scout, develop and sign the best players. This ability is now being restricted.

So while Major League Baseball continues to urge teams that receive large amounts of money in the revenue sharing to spend more of it, they are going to start restricting how and where they can spend it.

There isn’t much in the new CBA that sounds good. The A’s are going to have a hard time competing in this market. They are going to have to spend more money on free agents they may not necessarily want in order to fill holes. They may not be able to draft the player they really want for fear that it will require a large sum of money to sign him.

The new CBA doesn’t level the playing field. Rather, it hurts the teams that need the most help, and the sad (and frustrating) part was that the owners and the Players’ Association agreed to this.

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