Wednesday, November 23, 2011

How the new MLB Labor Agreement affects the Walla Walla Sweets

We often get asked if we are affiliated with any major league team; we are not. I take it as a compliment though that people think to ask. I believe that question is a reflection of the efforts our front office staff and game-day employees put into making the experience with the Sweets - from a fan perspective, from a player perspective and from a sponsor/partner perspective - feel like they are dealing with the quality that professional teams usually deliver.

However, our business on the field is affected by what happens at the big-league level. Typically not at the level that Mariners fans see on TV or in Safeco Field, but certainly at the player development level - the draft. Each year there are a handful of players on our roster that are wildcards in the sense that they are draft-eligible, and if they get offered enough or the situation is right for them, they sign professionally and don't play here. One example is a pitcher from our 2010 roster - Ryan Bean of Edmonds CC - who was scheduled to pitch in Walla Walla but signed after he was selected by the San Fransisco Giants in the 2010 amateur draft. We never saw Ryan - a roster spot had to be filled on short notice. While not a high-round draft pick, Ryan was the first example of how our roster changed dramatically because of the draft (Bean is a great kid - a good pitcher - and someone who was upfront with us in indicating that he would sign if the right situation arose - we signed him anyway).

MLB and the MLBPA just reached an agreement that means that baseball achieved labor peace for what will be 21 consecutive years (considering the state of their other big-league counterparts, kuddos...). Some of the changes at the draft/player development affect our level of baseball. The biggest change: a budget system for big-league clubs as to how much they can spend on their signing class, with fairly severe penalties for going over the allocated amounts. They instituted a similar system for international signings, but since we deal exclusively with college-eligible athletes it doesn't really affect us. They also eliminated compensation picks for free agent departures (in the past, if a MLB team signed a free agent - Type A or Type B - the team that was losing the player would receive compensation picks) (there is still a compensation process, but it is far more strict than what is currently in place and really reduces the amount of draft-pick stock-piling that occurred in recent years). Why all of this is significant: top high school prospects are more likely to choose to accept scholarships than to sign because these new regulations will likely drastically reduce what is being spent on draft picks - the biggest driving force behind ballplayers choosing to sign over going to school.  One NL scouting director noted in an article on that scouting amateur baseball (read: West Coast League) will be more beneficial (he said the Cape Cod League, but we'll assume that he is an East Coast guy!). He may have said it tongue-in-cheek, but it is nonetheless true. We'll have better talent at this level to work with.

Another important change is the signing deadline is moved to the middle of July (was the middle of August). It reduces the waiting game that agents like to play with big-league front offices. The benefit to the Sweets: a player who is drafted and eligible to sign will do so by the middle of the season, leaving us enough time to sign another player (if needed) for the pennant race and potential playoffs. Under the current system, we could lose a key player at the end of the season or right before a playoff start - too late to replace him on the roster.

As John Savage, the head coach at UCLA and someone who we have worked with to secure talent for the Sweets, noted in the BA article - this was not done to help college baseball. These changes were affected to help level the competitive balance between "large market" and "small market" teams and to ensure that revenue sharing dollars are being spent to improve the product that MLB clubs sell to their fans. But, as with everything in the world of baseball, there are ripple effects that affect what we do here in our little corner of SE Washington.

We continue to work to build the best summer collegiate program in the country - I hope everyone has a safe and happy Thanksgiving and know that we are less than three months away from spring training starting (baseball isn't that far away!).

No comments:

Post a Comment