This year, MLB and the MLBPA successfully avoided a lockout that has plagued their other counterparts in the NFL, NHL, and NBA when they managed to come to an agreement for a new collective bargaining agreement. While the deal was signed, sealed and delivered without much fanfare, there are several parts of this agreement that might be more impactful than that of some of the other sports. And in doing so, baseball free-agency as we know it might be coming to an end — and, ironically, might benefit the team that historically impacted free agency the most, the Yankees, in the coming year.
Under the new collective bargaining agreement, presumably as a means to maintain increased competitive balance, a Type A free agent will be treated different in terms of the ramifications for the team that signs him. If a Type A agent is tendered by his former team, any other team that signs him will lose a draft pick as compensation to the team the player is leaving. While that isn’t saying much, particularly in a crap-shoot draft like MLB has, it does matter. Moreover, the value of that draft pick will be deducted from the amount of money any individual team can spend on its draft class. Ideally, this will dissuade any other team from signing the player, allowing smaller-market teams to be able to retain their own talent, as opposed to losing a guy to, well, the Yankees. This is critical in that it may make the difference between signing a prospect and having him go back to college — at which point he will re-enter the draft the following year and you risk 1) losing the pick and 2) having him go to another team in the next draft. (Once again, take a look at Mark Appel.) Theoretically, any team will offer a Type A free agent a tendered deal, even if there is almost a guarantee it will be declined in order to retain the pick, thereby ensuring that the signing team will lose a pick. Additionally, under the new CBA, there is a limit on the amount of money that teams can spend on international amateur players. All of this limits the opportunity to go out and find new talent, but rather maintain the talent that they already have.
So, how does this help the Yankees? It just might be that it could help them keep Robinson Cano once he hits free agency in 2014.
I have said it before, and I will say it again: I’m not under the delusion that Cano should give the Yankees a hometown discount. He would probably be foolish to even entertain any contract that doesn’t have an annual number that starts with a 2. With Scott Boras as an agent, it’ll probably be closer, but not quite, 3. And no player signs up with Boras because he plans on giving a hometown discount — he signs Boras to get the most possible money he can. He’s probably worth somewhere in the $22-25 million dollar range. He will also probably try to secure a seven or eight year. The beauty of the new CBA (or problem, depending on your perspective), is that a team thinking about challenging the Yankees to sign Cano may think twice. Signing him, or any other free agent with Type A status, might compromise the future of your team. While that might not matter to a general manager who is thinking about his immediate future in a win-now league, an owner, who is in for the long-haul, may not like the idea of going “all in” now and mortgaging the future of the team. Effectively, the new parameters of the CBA might make it less tenable for a team to swoop in and sign away Cano. Logically, if his market decreases, that increases the leverage held by the Yankees.
If reports are to be believed, and if Hal Steinbrenner himself is to be taken at his word, this $189 million payroll isn’t just a goal for 2014, but a long-term project for the Yankees. It’s a fair assumption to say that plan doesn’t include paying almost $30 million dollars a year for anyone, even Cano. (Admittedly, Steinbrenner hedged by claiming that this policy was subject to change if the team was not a championship caliber, but let’s work with that number for now. Plus, if the team can’t contend, a payroll of “only” $189 million won’t be the problem, but that’s another story.) Under the old rules, the financial ramifications might have meant that the Yankees wouldn’t be able to keep Cano and keep to their budget. But within the rules of new CBA, it might be that no other team will be willing to spend to sign Cano either, given what they will have to surrender in drafting new talent. Draft picks and the money to sign them have suddenly become a lot more valuable than they used to be. As such, the Yankees might be able to get Cano at a price more reasonable to their wallets, and still keep to the self-imposed cap given the lack of challengers in the new system.
I may be in the minority there, but I think that there’s a good chance that Robinson Cano may not be a Yankee in 2014. The Yankees seem pretty dead-set on $189 million, and there’s a chance that, even with the CBA, Cano may be able to get more money elsewhere. I think he is a terrific player, and a great talent, but I’ve also mentioned before that it might not be the wisest move to keep him, either. That said, the new free agency rules under the new CBA — which were meant to help the small market team — might end up helping the biggest market team, the Yankees, and help them do what they’ve done all along: sign the big free agent.