When players and owners ratified the new labor agreement in Major League Baseball, the news barely made a ripple in the media. After all, the two sides reached agreement relatively easily and opted for continued labor peace rather than the strife and uncertainty that the NBA, NFL, and, more recently, the NHL decided to put their fans through.
Basically baseball followed the old adage of “Once bitten, twice shy.”
Within the agreement, the sections outlining the new draft slotting and signing period, along with the section detailing the new drug testing policies, received the most publicity. However, it was an interesting sub-section to the draft that recently received its share of attention and adds another wrinkle to a game that has typically been shy about change.
Just for fun, let’s call that wrinkle “The Competitive Balance Lottery.”
Now, before we all grab our pitchforks and scream “shenanigans”, let’s not get confused with the more corruptible version of a lottery system that the NBA uses. The Competitive Balance Lottery’s purpose is to give small market and low revenue teams an extra draft selection in hopes of them being able to build their talent within.
So basically, the system was set-up to benefit the thirteen lowest revenue/smallest market teams in the league. There are two draft pools up for lottery. The first is the first 6 picks immediately following the first round (regular and compensation picks). The second such round follows the second round of the draft. Like the NBA lottery, the odds for each team winning are weighted by the team’s winning percentage the year prior. That said, the Orioles had the best chance of securing the first pick rewarded.
For the 2012 lottery, the picks were rewarded as such:
Comp A Comp B
1 Royals Padres
2 Pirates Indians
3 D-backs Rockies
4 Orioles A's
5 Reds Brewers
6 Marlins Tigers
In 2013, the Tigers will become ineligible while the Cardinals and Rays enter the fray.
There is one interesting swerve in the process though; the picks awarded in the Competitive Balance Lottery are tradable, a first for Major League Baseball. However, the pick can only be traded once, by the team that won it. Think of the flexibility this will also give the small market teams in being able to establish value on the picks and have the chance to in turn flip that for perceived value in a package deal with another team. This is especially true for teams like the Pirates, Reds, and Orioles, all of which could utilize the ability to trade their picks in order to bolster their rosters while in the thick of the playoff hunt.
Of course, the true worth of a pick is in the selections made, and that is especially true in Major League Baseball, where prospect development takes on a whole new meaning. Many of the teams on the list above have been set back for years based on poor draft selection. The idea of loading a team up with even a single extra pick will certainly help lower the odds of finding success in the draft.
And for some of these teams, all they want to do is lower the odds of once again finding success.
- There was an interesting trade being floated in the press yesterday. At one point, some "unnamed source" detailed some discussions that had the Red Sox sending Carl Crawford and a prospect to the Marlins for Hanley Ramirez and Heath Bell. Aside from the fact that the two teams would be exchanging some huge contracts, I can't see much benefit to the deal for either team. Hanley and Crawford both been underachieving disappointments over the last two seasons, and Bell has already lost his closer job. And I have a hard time imagining the Marlins would be willing to take an outfielder who could be facing Tommy John surgery at the end of the season. Chalk this one up to rampant speculation and move on.
- Speaking of the trade deadline, there is some serious talent available on the market with Zack Greinke, Cole Hamels, Ryan Dempster, and Matt Garza all expected to be moved. Add into that the massively distant possibility that the Mariners move Felix Hernandez, and you could have an arms race that could dictate the outcomes of each post season chase.
- Speaking of dictating playoff outcomes, injuries have a habit of doing that as well. In particular, the injuries to the trio of sluggers that include Joey Votto, Jose Bautista, and David Ortiz. The Blue Jays have hovered around .500 despite losing 3/5th of their starting rotation to arm issues only to lose their biggest offensive weapon going into the trade deadline. The Red Sox need to make a run if they are going to have a prayer, and just as they get Ellsbury, Crawford, and Pedroia back, they lose their anchor in Ortiz for 2 weeks. That doesn't even compare to the loss of Votto, who will miss the next four weeks for the Reds who are trying to fend off the upstart Pirates. Sometimes Lady Luck just looks the other way.