Collective Bargaining Agreement Rumors

Quick Hits: Upton, Liriano, Orioles, Headley

Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive VP of labor relations, told Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports that he’s not ready to say baseball’s collective bargaining agreement needs changes. While the CBA appears to have limited the market for certain players who declined qualifying offers, Manfred says it’s still early. “I’m not inclined to get into a discussion about changing an agreement when it hasn’t even operated for a full year.” As Rosenthal points out, draft pick compensation places an artificial burden on free agents. Here are some more links from around MLB…

  • The Rangers aren’t a perfect fit for Justin Upton, because their lineup already includes many right-handed hitters, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney notes (Twitter links). The Braves could be a better fit, and could deal from a surplus of pitching. Olney reported yesterday that the Diamondbacks are open to dealing the right fielder.
  • The Pirates haven’t announced their two-year, $12.75MM agreement with Francisco Liriano, but MLB.com’s Tom Singer still expects the deal to go through (Twitter link). The Pirates have been trying to get the left-hander to Pittsburgh for a physical.
  • The Orioles have not watched free agent right-hander Javier Vazquez work out and they have no current plans to attend any of his scheduled sessions, Roch Kubatko of MASNSports.com reports (on Twitter). That said, Eduardo A. Encina of the Baltimore Sun suggested today that the Orioles could have some interest (Twitter link).
  • Within an in-depth piece about third baseman Chase Headley, Padres GM Josh Byrnes revealed to MLB.com's Corey Brock that he pushed for the Red Sox to draft Headley back in 2005 when he was in the Boston front office. Headley, 28, is arbitration eligible for the third time this offseason.

Olney On Soriano, LaRoche, Braves

Baseball’s most recent collective bargaining agreement introduced new rules regarding draft pick compensation, and the changes were expected to help free agents. However, ESPN.com’s Buster Olney reports that some agents and general managers say certain free agents who obtained qualifying offers are now seeing reduced interest from teams. These players are talented, but general managers are hesitant to give up draft picks. Here are more notes from Olney’s column…

  • One GM pointed out that teams aren’t “wild about giving up a draft pick for a reliever," even though Rafael Soriano is a good pitcher. The Yankees almost certainly won’t consider taking him back, according to Olney.
  • The Red Sox have targeted players who aren’t linked to draft pick compensation, as Olney points out.
  • Adam LaRoche is tied to draft pick compensation and it’s “really hurting him,” Olney writes. The first baseman has been sitting on a two-year offer from the Nationals.
  • It appears that the Braves would be fairly comfortable going into the season with Martin Prado playing both left field and third base. They’d use Reed Johnson in left field against left-handers and Juan Francisco at third base against right-handers in that scenario.

Rosenthal On Greinke, Free Agency, Trades

With a national television deal in place and labor peace established, MLB teams are ready to spend. Some people in the commissioner’s office are nervous about the possibility of more lavish free agent contracts, Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports reports. Here are more notes from Rosenthal on the day before free agents can sign with any team…

  • The Angels want to sign Zack Greinke, but so do their biggest rivals, the Dodgers and the Rangers.
  • Rosenthal points out that the offseason could unfold more quickly this year, partly because of the new MLB calendar. Teams won’t have to wait as long to determine which free agents are linked to draft pick compensation, which should accelerate the free agent market. I discussed the possibility in this week’s MLBTR chat.
  • Rosenthal expects almost every free agent who receives a qualifying offer to reject it.
  • MLB officials expect the trade market to remain “hot” throughout the winter, according to Rosenthal.


Explaining Qualifying Offers

For the first time since baseball’s collective bargaining agreement was finalized, teams, agents and players will navigate a new system for determining free agent compensation: qualifying offers. The offers are due today, so there’s no better time for a refreshed primer. Here’s a look at draft pick compensation under the sport’s new CBA:

  • Type A and Type B designations have been eliminated. Instead, teams will have to make players a qualifying offer to be eligible for draft pick compensation. 
  • The value of the qualifying offer, which is determined annually by averaging the top 125 player salaries from the previous year, will be worth $13.3MM this offseason. All qualifying offers are for the same duration (one year) and the same amount ($13.3MM for 2012-13). 
  • Teams have until five days after the World Series to make qualifying offers. At that point the players have seven days to accept.
  • Once a team makes a qualifying offer, the player has two choices: he can accept the one-year deal or decline in search of other offers. If he declines the offer and signs elsewhere, his new team will have to surrender a top draft pick (the selection doesn't go to the player's former team). 
  • Teams that sign free agents who turned down qualifying offers will surrender their first round picks. However, the forfeited picks don't go to other MLB teams. Instead, the first round simply becomes condensed.
  • The first ten selections in the draft are protected. Teams with protected picks will surrender their second-highest selections. The Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Indians, Marlins, Red Sox, Royals and Blue Jays have protected first round picks this offseason. The Pirates' ninth overall selection (compensation for failing to sign their 2012 first rounder) is also protected.
  • The player’s former team will receive its compensatory selection at the end of the first round. Teams now obtain one compensatory selection, instead of two.
  • If teams don’t make a qualifying offer, the player can sign uninhibited.
  • Only players who have been with their clubs for the entire season will be eligible for compensation. So Zack Greinke and Shane Victorino definitely aren’t getting offers.
  • Check out Tim Dierkes’ preview of which players will get qualifying offers from earlier in the week.

Qualifying Offers Will Be Worth $13.3MM

OCTOBER 20: It has been determined that qualifying offers need to be worth $13.3MM this offseason, reports Jon Heyman of CBSSports.com (on Twitter).

AUGUST 1: Qualifying offers for free agents will be in the $13.3-$13.4MM range, ESPN.com's Buster Olney reports (on Twitter). The value of the qualifying offers is based on the salaries of the 125 best-paid MLB players, and had been expected to fall in the $12.5MM range.

Teams must make free agents qualifying offers to be eligible for draft pick compensation. Teams obtain one supplementary round draft pick if a player turns down a qualifying offer to sign elsewhere. I explained qualifying offers in detail earlier this year.

Mike Axisa contributed to this post.


Curtis Granderson Previews MLBPA Offseason

Curtis Granderson capped off the 2012 season with a two-home run effort at Yankee Stadium yesterday, as New York beat Boston 14-2 and clinched the American League East title. His season isn’t over yet — the Yankees will play in the Division Series starting this weekend — but for most of his peers in the MLB Players Association it’s time to look ahead ahead to the offseason. Granderson, a prominent member of MLBPA's Executive Board, expects this winter to unfold more quietly than last it did a year ago, when the players and owners negotiated a new collective bargaining agreement.

Curtis Granderson - Yankees (PW)

“All the main things that needed to be discussed happened last year,” Granderson told MLBTR this past weekend. “There won’t be any big, major holdups — just a few things to try to iron out that could start this year that may not finish up for the next couple of years. It’ll just be a lot of discussion.”

The talks will have a different tone this offseason. Though baseball’s players and owners negotiated their current CBA without any of the public bickering that has accompanied recent labor discussions in the NFL, NBA and NHL, tense moments are bound to occur while determining the financial structure of a $7 billion industry. Now that major issues such as the luxury tax, the amateur draft and revenue sharing have been resolved through 2016, the MLBPA can focus on other details.

“Obviously there are always issues each year that arise and different things from new helmet regulations, pace of game, different things with performance enhancing drug issues that we’ve had this year, scheduling with another team going to the American League, Interleague Play starting in the first week of the season,” Granderson said. “So just little things like that, but nothing major.”

Granderson, one of two association representatives for the MLBPA (Jeremy Guthrie of the Royals is the other), will keep in contact with his fellow players via phone calls and text messages over the course of the coming offseason. When a major issue emerges, the MLBPA attempts to reach as many players as possible.

“We have ways of getting in touch with everybody,” Granderson said. “Pretty quickly now, especially with everybody having a cell phone no matter where they happen to be in the world.”

When he’s not communicating with other MLB players, Granderson stays informed on labor unrest in other sports. Former MLBPA Executive Director Don Fehr represents NHL players in the current lockout, and Granderson, who worked a bit with Fehr in the past, has monitored talks with an outsider’s perspective.

“I’m still a fan,” he said. “I like watching those games and whenever they get the chance to go back out there, hopefully everybody’s taken care of.”

For now baseball players don't have major labor concerns of their own, which means fewer distractions for Granderson as the Yankees prepare for another postseason run.

Photo courtesy of US Presswire.


Bottom Nine Teams Obtain Protected Picks

For MLB teams to obtain a protected first round draft pick in 2013, they will have to finish this year with one of the nine worst records in baseball. Though the top ten draft choices are protected under the sport’s new collective bargaining agreement, one of those selections will go to the Pirates, who did not sign their 2012 first round pick, Mark Appel. This means the nine teams with the worst records in baseball will have protected first round selections in 2013, MLB confirmed to MLBTR.

MLB determines the order of its amateur draft by upending the order of the previous year’s standings. As MLBTR’s Reverse Standings page shows, the Astros, Cubs, Rockies, Twins, Indians, Marlins, Blue Jays, Red Sox and Royals would obtain protected draft picks if the season ended today. The Mets, Marlins and Padres could obtain protected draft picks depending on the results of the season’s final week.

Teams must forfeit a draft pick to sign a free agent who declined a qualifying offer from his former club. If a team's first round pick is protected, the team will forfeit its next highest selection.

“A Club that signs one Qualified Free Agent who is subject to compensation shall forfeit its highest available selection in the next Rule 4 Draft,” the CBA reads. “Notwithstanding the above, a Club shall not be required to forfeit a selection in the top ten of the first round.”

Top first round selections are especially valuable under baseball’s CBA. Not only does a top-ten draft choice provide teams with a wider selection of players, it assures them of a protected pick, regardless of what happens in free agency. 

While the top ten selections cannot be forfeited as draft pick compensation, picks from 11 on are vulnerable. This year finishing with the tenth-worst record in MLB won't be enough to obtain a protected pick.


Anthopoulos Talks Prospects, CBA, Payroll

General manager Alex Anthopoulos reviewed the Blue Jays’ on-field progress and discussed a variety of off-field issues in an extended interview with Drew Fairservice of the Score. Here are some highlights from their conversation:

  • It’s becoming more difficult for teams to get good trade value for players with one or two remaining years of team control, Anthopoulos said. “Now it is starting to shift a little bit, it is three years of control or four years of control,” he said. Players just one year away from free agency don’t have as much trade value now, according to the GM.
  • The Blue Jays entered the season with a payroll in the $80MM range and Anthopoulos described it as “a solid payroll to have” (Toronto’s Opening Day payroll was $83.7MM according to Cot's Baseball Contracts and $75.5MM according to USA Today). He repeated that the team can increase payroll, but noted that “it isn’t going to go up for the sake of going up.”
  • Draft pick compensation has become less of a consideration for the Blue Jays given the franchise’s minor league depth and recent changes to baseball’s collective bargaining agreement. “Now we are more interested in guys who will be around for a while and have some swing-and-miss stuff,” Anthopoulos said of potential relief acquisitions.
  • There’s no formula for extensions, Anthopoulos said. “It always comes down to price.” The Blue Jays discussed a possible extension for Edwin Encarnacion last offseason and ultimately signed him this summer.
  • Part of the reason the Blue Jays generally avoid long-term contracts is the unpredictable nature of baseball. “Players change, things change,” Anthopoulos told Fairservice. “Players get hurt and you tend to forget six or seven years is an awfully long time.” The GM added that it sometimes makes sense to wait a little longer before locking a player up, even if it means paying a bit more.
  • Anthopoulos knows he wasn’t “hired to react to the whims and the emotions” of a 162-game schedule, but it doesn’t mean he enjoys being calculated all of the time. “To be honest with you, I get sick of having to be so guarded,” he said. “It is exhausting. I know it is important to stay consistent but it is exhausting.”

Levine Talks Payroll, Girardi, Rivera, Ichiro

Yankees president Randy Levine addressed the team’s age, injuries, leadership and prospective free agents in a comprehensive interview with Barry Bloom of MLB.com. Here are some more highlights from his interview with Bloom:

  • The Yankees aim to avoid the $189MM luxury tax threshold by 2014, Levine confirmed. “There are tremendous financial incentives to do it,” he said. “In addition to not paying the tax, there are tens of millions of dollars in revenue sharing rebates that will come back to teams like the Yankees if they stay under the threshold.” 
  • The Yankees must get younger to continue competing, Levine said. Baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement places additional importance on player development and changes to the CBA could also lead to a “very different free-agent market,” Levine said.
  • Joe Girardi and his staff have done a “good job,” Levine said. He declined to discuss Girardi’s long-term future with the team, saying only that discussions would take place at the appropriate time.
  • Levine expressed confidence in general manager Brian Cashman and the team’s other front office executives. “I think everybody is great.”
  • The Yankees are doing “very, very well” from a business standpoint, Levine said. He made it clear that the Steinbrenner family has no intention of selling the club, but said the Dodgers’ sale price of $2 billion “gives us something to smile about.”
  • The Yankees would “love to have” Mariano Rivera come back in 2013, Levine said. “If he wants to come back, we'll welcome him back.”
  • The Yankees want Rafael Soriano in New York and believe he has done a tremendous job. The closer is expected to opt out of his contract with the Yankees after the season and elect free agency.
  • The Yankees will talk to Andy Pettitte this offseason if the left-hander is interested in returning for another year.
  • Ichiro Suzuki “has done a good job” in New York, Levine said. As of now, however, the team is focused on 2012, not Ichiro’s next contract.
  • Levine acknowledged that he’s concerned about injuries, saying the frequency of disabled list stints is “troubling.”

Competitive Balance Lottery Takes Place Today

Baseball’s first Competitive Balance Lottery takes place today, when small-market and low-revenue teams will have the chance to win extra selections in next year’s amateur draft. The ten smallest-market teams and ten lowest-revenue teams will have the chance to win extra selections in 2013, Jonathan Mayo of MLB.com reports. 

There’s overlap between small-market teams and low-revenue teams, so there are 13 clubs involved in the first-round lottery: the Diamondbacks, Orioles, Indians, Royals, Athletics, Pirates, Padres, Rays, Reds, Rockies, Marlins, Brewers and Cardinals. The first six selections will be made between the first and second rounds of next year’s draft. A second group of six picks will be available to the teams from the first group that didn’t get an early pick, plus the Tigers. The second group of selections will be made after the second round of the draft. 

MLB teams can trade the draft picks they obtain in the Competitive Balance Lottery. The picks, which can only be traded once, cannot be sold or traded during the offseason. In theory, the draft picks could be involved in some of this summer’s deadline deals. 

The lottery takes place today at 12:30pm CDT/1:30pm EDT in New York and the winners will be announced 75 minutes later. A team’s chances of winning depend on its winning percentage from the previous season.