This afternoon, MLB and Bud Selig unveiled their new collective bargaining agreement and it created shock waves throughout the sport. Radical changes to replay, drug testing and roster limits surprised baseball personnel and media all around the country but the new amateur draft and international signing rules on spending created the biggest waves. Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports laid out a good overview of the CBA via a number of tweets, including the penalties concerning over slot signings and the new draft lottery.
Within those tweets, it became clearly obvious that MLB had taken a hard line on amateur spending and teams like Tampa, Kansas City and Toronto who thrive off over slot signings will be handcuffed by these new rules. It brings up the questions, how do these changes affect the Astros and Jim Crane’s plan to build from within? It is obvious that small markets will struggle with the heavy taxation and possible draft pick they could lose but the ‘Stros aren’t a small market, you could say they are more big market than middle. That said, Crane is determined to build the ‘Stros from the ground up so the draft will be very important. Their spot at the top wouldn’t require them to go over slot for the 1st pick regardless. While capping spending to anywhere from 4.5 million to 11.5 million and eliminating major league contracts will make signing 1st round picks easier, along with a new earlier signing period, it will also allow for draftees to be integrated into the organization much sooner which can only help a rebuilding club like the Astros. The new rules may begin to hurt the Astros as the draft continues because they seemed poised to have been aggressive with their signings in the rounds that followed. Throw in the compensation pick for losing Barmes and this might limit on the type of athletes they could go after. With the Astros going through a rebuilding period, this will harm the organization’s ability to build by using Crane’s resources as an advantage and level the playing field in many ways. Whoever the GM may be, the Astros will have to be as smart as ever with their selections, understanding that some of the high school players that might have used college as leverage will be even more inclined to wait a few years and increase their draft stock.
Another major aspect of the new agreement is a competitive balance lottery to be held after the 1st and 2nd rounds. This could provide the Astros with valuable additional picks, which for a rebuilding club can be crucial. The Astros will have an excellent shot at obtaining these additional picks due to the requirements set by MLB and could be able to stockpile players that would increase depth within their farm system. Caps in international signings will also play a huge part in Crane’s master plan. Teams like the Rangers, Braves and Phillies will no longer be able to spend at will on these types of free agents. But it also limits how much the Astros could have been willing to spend on a market they intended to take advantage of. The international market has been largely ignored by the ‘Stros for a number of years, until only recently have they begun to take advantage once again. Capping that market will put the brakes on teams who, along with the amateur draft, have used to build up high level talent.
No one can deny that the new CBA has altered the direction of not just the Astros but all 30 MLB organizations. Jim Crane has to be even more cerebral in his drafting and scouting because the margin for error will be less, not that the Astros had much room to begin with.