Baseball’s most prominent agent says the integrity of the sport has been damaged by its collective bargaining agreement. MLB’s top labor executive says the system works, even though one prominent player remains jobless. Within a telling piece at USA Today, Bob Nightengale reports that agent Scott Boras and MLB executive VP Rob Manfred are at odds over the current CBA.
Boras argues that the basic agreement encourages teams to finish with poor records. The clubs that finish with the worst records are able to spend more freely on amateur players.
"The integrity of the game has been compromised,'' Boras told Nightengale. "What baseball has done, it has created a dynamic where draft dollars are affecting the Major Leaguers. Teams are constructing clubs to be non-competitive, like Houston and Miami, so they can position themselves where they can get more draft dollars. Clubs are trying to finish last to create more draft dollars. And this dramatically affects the Wild Card and Major League standings.''
Kyle Lohse, the top unsigned free agent, has suggested in recent months that the new draft pick compensation rules have limited his leverage (latest Lohse rumors here). His agent agrees. Boras argues that draft dollars are "the latest currency" for MLB general managers.
“And the best way to earn draft dollars is to sabotage your Major League team and finish last,'' he said.
In the past teams didn’t mind surrendering a first round draft pick to sign a prominent player, Boras said. The clubs could simply spend over-slot on players in later rounds, a practice that is no longer permitted in the same way.
“Now, you've taken away the structure of the scouting and developing,” Boras said. “They have stolen our youth. They have kidnapped our children in this system.''
Manfred explained that the agreement won’t be changed to accommodate one player.
"It is important to focus on all the changes to the system of draft choice compensation,'' Manfred told Nightengale. "A large number of players were freed from the burden of compensation completely, and those players undoubtedly received better contracts as a result. We have not heard anyone raising questions as to whether the system is working for those players.”
Manfred points out that with the exception of Lohse the nine players who declined qualifying offers obtained substantial contracts.
"The fact that one Scott Boras client has not signed does not convince me that the system is broken,'' Manfred said.
Agent Larry Reynolds represents B.J. Upton, another player who hit free agency after declining his former team’s qualifying offer. Reynolds told Nightengale it would be “misleading” to suggest that draft pick compensation is the lone variable that determines a free agent’s value.