The Truth About the CBA and Small Market Compeitition


It’s time to give up. Throw in the towel and forfeit victory to those with more. Ingenuity and innovation are dead.

Those are the doomsday prophesies for small-market clubs like the Padres with the implementation of the new CBA. While things are certainly going to be much more difficult, the ability to compete has not been eliminated. Let’s first talk about the new rules and the negative effect they will have on small-market clubs, then we’ll discuss how to overcome these obstacles and how teams like the Rays, Twins, and Padres can continue to compete.

The Facts:

The new CBA imposes a tax on teams that exceed the slot-price for draft picks. So, teams that make their living through the draft, spend the majority of their money in the draft, and thrive off a good farm system will have to either spend more money to pay the tax or pay less for draft picks and run the risk of not being able to sign the pick.

In addition, free agency compensation has been completely altered. Now, teams signing free agents will no longer have to give up draft picks to the team losing the player. That is unless the team losing the player makes a qualifying offer. What’s “qualifying” you ask? A qualifying offer will be around $12 million for at least one year. Should a team make their free agent an offer like that, then they will be entitled to draft pick compensation. Now, teams who normally would fear the loss of draft picks can sign free agents without the fear of farm system depletion. The clubs that require this compensation (i.e. the small-market clubs) now must sit back and watch their top players head for greener pastures.

The Fears:

The widely believed problem with the new CBA is in its attack on small-market way of life. Like the greedy corporate conglomerates the Yankees, Red Sox, Phillies, and other high-payroll teams are perceived to be, money fuels this capitalistic attack on the lower class. These teams in the big-markets bring in the dough. They can afford the luxury tax for the high payrolls. They can sign the big name free agents. They draw the fans. They make the money.

Under the new CBA, the teams with less money will not be able to compete. The competitive balance has been forever shifted further to those who have and taken from those who have not. The death of worst-to-first stories, inspiration, hope, and baseball as we knew it is upon us. Bud Selig and the new CBA have killed the sport.

The Truth:

Small-market teams will be just fine. Smart minds win out over deep pockets all the time. No matter the challenges or road blocks in the way, those with a plan and a way to implent the plan will find a way to win. When the A’s defied the odds and started winning in the early 2000’s, the thoughts around baseball were the same. Small-market teams cannot compete with the cash. Those people, with those closed-minded thoughts, were wrong.

When the A’s floundered and found themselves once again at the bottom of the division, the baseball pundits and talking heads said small market success was a fluke. The new ways of running a ball club were exposed and the big-market teams would once again reign supreme, this time forever. Again, they were wrong. The Florida Marlins found success. So did the Diamondbacks. The Twins maintained their success for a number of years. And then there is the success story to end all success stories. The Rays.

The Tampa Bay Rays have defied all odds. They won with virtually no money, took a pay cut, then kept winning. They used new ideas, new processes, ingenuity, and innovation to win ball games. They scraped, they clawed, and they won. The Tampa Bay Rays were run in a manner no other team in baseball has ever been run. They were designed to compete on a low payroll. They did what everyone thought could not be done. David stood up tall, took a new slingshot from his back pocket, and he slayed Gloliath once again.

With the new CBA, there will be new challenges. But when in life do our challenges remain constant. Things are always changing. Those who stick with the status quo are left behind. Those who adapt succeed. Small-market clubs will continue to be successful. They will find new ways to win. If David’s slingshot is broken or stolen again, he will find a new one. Sure it will be a difficult, but it can be done. If not by the Rays, then by some other team.

Maybe the Padres.