The draft and the next CBA

There’s an excellent post from one of my favorite baseball writers (Maury Brown at the Biz of Baseball) about the number of players that signed for more than their slot recommendation, and how that will be addressed in the next collective bargaining agreement.

Brown, with the help of Baseball America’s Jim Callis, looks at the staggering number of players who signed over-slot contracts. Nationals fourth-rounder A.J. Cole gets special mention as the player who signed the largest over-slot deal in the fourth round; his $2 million bonus, which was a record for a fourth-round pick, exceeded the MLB recommendation by $1,741,700.

Nationals president Stan Kasten said again early Tuesday morning, after the team signed No. 1 overall pick Bryce Harper, that he can’t fathom the current system extending beyond the life of the current CBA, which expires after the 2011 World Series. When teams are spending as much money as they did this year, it’s hard to see the draft not undergoing some revisions.

There’s been talk of a hard slotting system, an international draft and an ability to trade picks. The first of those three suggestions seems like the easiest to implement, because it wouldn’t require a major overhaul of baseball’s infrastructure. There will likely be some disagreement over a hard slotting system, but as Kasten has pointed out, even veteran players would prefer the process to be changed, so teams are shifting dollars from draft picks to proven performers.

A hard slotting system would also unmistakably change the look of the draft. There would be no more players sliding deep into the first round over signability concerns, and teams fearful of paying out for their draft picks would have to take the best player at their spot, rather than sneaking in a player they know would sign for slot or below it. Bottom-division teams with lower payrolls would get control of a better player for six years, and the distribution of top talent would look markedly different than it does now.

And, there would be no need for negotiations to go down to the last minute like they do now. The commonly-held belief in baseball is that deadline deals happen as much because of MLB, wanting to avoid one player’s deal setting the market for another, as because of players and agents.

Players wouldn’t waste two months of a season not playing, and they could get their careers started sooner. From what we’ve seen of players like Ryan Zimmerman and Drew Storen, that can pay off quickly.

It’s going to be an interesting issue to track over the next year or two. Any thoughts on it? Let me know.

Update (12:40 p.m.): Some interesting stuff from Maury Brown in the comments section -- definitely worth reading as an addendum to this post.