Major league baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement will contain provisions that will limit spending on the amateur draft. While details are still emerging, it's been established that teams exceeding MLB's recommended slot levels will pay a significant tax. Baseball officials explained that the limitations were needed to prevent free-spending teams like the Pittsburgh Pirates and Kansas City Royals from upsetting the game’s economic balance.
"We have a system that works," said Commissioner Bud Selig. "We can’t have just a few teams destroying the game’s competitive balance by simply outspending the others. Fans in every city deserve to have a chance to see their teams contend, not just fans in places like Pittsburgh and Washington."
New York Yankees Chief Accountant Brian Cashman expressed his support for the Commissioner’s stand. "We have a very difficult time stretching our dollars to fill our needs. This off-season is a good example. We have a unique opportunity to add Prince Fielder and Albert Pujols as a DH platoon. If we have to budget $10-12 million for the draft, it could interfere with our ability to provide the kind of quality post-game catering that a player like Prince Fielder expects."
Even stronger support came from John Henry, owner of the third-place Boston Red Sox and owner-operator of the Fenway Park Home Locker Room franchise of Chix ‘N Chuggers Pub. "I bought the Red Sox in reliance on a financial system that made sense. I’m not paying untold billions into the revenue sharing system so the Kansas City Royals can have an Edgar Hosmer or a Mike Moosetoes hit a home run to beat my team. When Bud arranged for me to buy the team instead of people who offered more money for it, he told me in no uncertain terms that it was vital for me to see that the team was in the playoffs every year or the TV ratings would just go to hell. In any rational economic system, the businesses that succeed are the ones whose owners spend the most on payroll and are the best buddies with the Commissioner. Now here I am, out over $150 million and out of the playoffs."
Michael Weiner, head of the players’ union, explained why the union agreed to limitations on compensation, which it has traditionally opposed. "We had to think of the bigger picture here," said Weiner. "The labor agreement requires teams to spend their revenue sharing dollars to improve the team on the field. Spending millions in the draft on non-union members doesn’t comply with the spirit of the agreement. It’s been shown again and again that the free agent market works for small-market teams. We saw it this year when the Pirates were able to sign union members like Lyle Overbay, Kevin Correia and Scott Olsen, and those signings propelled them into contention."
Weiner denied a report about a conversation between himself and Selig that took place in the hall outside the negotiating room just after agreement was reached. According to the report, Selig was overheard telling Weiner, "That’s the last (bleep)ing time a second round pick will get five (bleep)ing million, like those (bleep bleep)ers gave Josh (bleep)ing Bell." According to Weiner, however, "The Commissioner was just expressing his concern that certain young men shouldn’t pass up opportunities to continue their education."
The lone dissent came from super-agent Scott Boras. "It isn’t fair to limit the ability of young men to bargain for the best price for their services," said Boras, who serves as advisor to 197 of Baseball America’s top 200 draft prospects. "If the Pirates and the Royals think they can improve their teams by spending money in the draft, why shouldn’t they be able to?" Selig, however, dismissed Boras’ comments as coming from a source who "knows nothing about economics or bargaining."