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More Details on that Painful New Collective Bargaining Agreement

Chicago Cubs News, Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

In the weeks leading up to the final sign-off on the new Collective Bargaining Agreement between MLB and the Players Association, we started getting hints that the CBA wasn’t going to be kind to teams hoping to rebuild via the draft. Those hints got worse and worse as the days went by, and the unveiling of the CBA didn’t go much better. Draft and international spending were curtailed greatly, draft pick compensation was limited, and “competitive balance lottery picks” wouldn’t be coming to teams like the Cubs. It was ugly.

And it’s getting uglier.

There were some details omitted from the original press release on the CBA, which are now surfacing. I can’t sugarcoat it: the new CBA is a real bitch for the Chicago Cubs. Among the new lowlights (ok, these aren’t all “lowlights” – you’ll be able to tell which ones hurt the Cubs):

  • Recall, teams are limited to a “pool” of dollars to spend in the first 10 rounds of the draft (and anything over $100k to individual picks after the 10th round are counted against the pool), which pool is basically the total of the slot recommendations for a team’s picks in those 10 rounds. If the team exceeds the pool by more than 5%, it starts losing draft picks. So, if you want to offer a huge amount to a kid, say, in the 4th round, you’ve got to “find” that money somewhere else in the pool. Hey, maybe you can fail to sign your first round pick, and then use that money on a bunch of overslot kids in rounds 2 through 10? You get another first round pick the next year if you fail to sign your first rounder, so that way, you can use that chunk of the pool money twice! Clever, right? Wrong. If a team fails to sign a pick in the first 10 rounds, the team’s pool is reduced by the slot recommendation for that pick. So the only way to “save” money in the first 10 rounds, to be used for overslot bonuses for other kids throughout the draft, is to lowball some kids in the first 10 rounds, and try to get them to sign for less than slot. That, like, never happens – and the reason is obvious: agents know what the slot recommendation is. Maybe things will change now that teams have less wiggle room, but we’ll see. As it stands, going over slot – something the Cubs did to great effect in 2011 – is becoming increasingly impossible.


  • The total money allotted to all teams for the first 10 rounds will be about $185 million – far lower than the $200 million+ first expected when the deal was announced.
  • Any attempt to circumvent the (effective) draft cap by way of an under-the-table agreement is expressly prohibited.
  • If a team fails to sign any of its first, second, or third round picks, it will receive a compensatory pick in the same spot (plus one) the next year. Additionally, if a team fails to then sign that compensatory pick, it will get one more compensatory pick the next year (in the past, if you picked a kid and failed to sign him, you’d get one compensatory pick the next year, but, if you failed to sign that kid, that was it. Now, you get two extra shots instead of one, which should help teams try and negotiate under slot deals, I suppose.)
  • The Cubs, as expected, did not qualify for the competitive balance lottery, which will include 13 teams (including every other team in the NL Central, except Houston). The lottery leads to six picks after the first round, and another six picks after the second round (which second lottery would be among the seven teams who didn’t get a pick the first time around, and any other team that receives revenue sharing (which, again, is not expected to include the Cubs under the new agreement)). Those picks are tradable, but only during the regular season. The first lottery will take place after the 2012 draft, meaning the picks don’t start until 2013.
  • Teams will now be allowed to announce deals as soon as they sign them, rather than having to wait for MLB approval for an announcement.


  • The draft is now 40 rounds, rather than 50. Presumably, there are no restrictions on the signing bonus you can give to an undrafted free agent. How you game the system into having a kid you want to offer a huge bonus slip through the cracks and not get drafted, I don’t yet know.
  • Sources are here, here, and here.


Brett Taylor

Brett Taylor is the Editor of Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @BleacherNation.