Rebuilding teams put up happy front about collective bargaining agreement

Nov 26 2011 - 6:45pm

There has been a lot of teeth-gnashing about the amateur spending limits included in baseball's new collective bargaining agreement, limits that are to be enforced through a system of taxes and lost draft picks for repeat offenders.

Teams from the Cubs to the Pirates are unhappy, although few executives are willing publicly to take on Commissioner Bud Selig and the owners, who engineered the system.

A source with the Cubs suggested "it just became a slower and more difficult process" to build from the ground up and the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review's Dejan Kovacevic wrote that any positive reactions to the new CBA were "delusional, deceitful and all fallacies in between" because it will continue to keep low-revenue teams like the Pirates down rather than help them.

The Pirates have spent $48 million in the last four drafts, the most in the majors, patiently working to turn around the talent shortfall that has resulted in a 19-year streak of losing seasons. On the record, anyway, team President Frank Coonelly didn't seem to believe the changes would have an adverse effect on his attempts to build through the minor leagues.

"Is this everything the Pittsburgh Pirates hoped it would be? No," Coonelly said. "But we don't subscribe to the notion it was aimed at us. For one, this has been in the works a long time. For another, if teams like the Yankees ever wanted to really flex their muscles in the draft, they could do it. This prevents that. We'll continue to sign the players we draft."

Many analysts cited the Royals as a team that will lose ground under the new agreement. But that's not the public viewpoint of general manager Dayton Moore, who assembled the minor-league talent that many believe will put his team back in the playoffs within the next few years.

"We really believe that whatever the rules are, we have to adapt to them and be successful within the confines of the structure," Moore told the Kansas City Star. "That's our mindset. There is still a lot of flexibility in this new agreement for you to be creative."

Moore echoed a point that had been made earlier in the week by a source close to the Cubs' front office.

"It always comes down to the same thing," Moore said. "It comes down to scouting judgment and your ability to create an environment that develops players and allows them to reach their ceiling."

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Gone forever: While too many of us were spending time discussing the finances of baseball, the game was changed in a horrific way Tuesday.

Mariners outfielder Greg Halman, a native of the Netherlands who was advertised as a potential five-tool player at one point, was stabbed to death, allegedly by his brother Jason, after an argument over loud music.

"Our heart is broken," Mariners farm director Pedro Grifol told the Seattle Times. "Mine's in pieces. We all, as a staff, loved this kid. He wasn't just a player. He was a kid we got here at 16. He was a baby. We all laid our hands on him, and he accepted all of us to be a part of where he was going. Everyone here got close to him."

The 24-year-old Halman hit .207 in 44 big-league games the last two seasons. He had nine career RBIs, including one on a sacrifice fly at U.S. Cellular Field on June 8. He was headed to spring training with a chance to compete for time in left field next season.

Halman had spent part of his offseason serving as an instructor on an MLB European Tour, helping run clinics and making speaking appearances in the Netherlands, the Czech Republic and Italy, where baseball is considered a start-up sport. He was joined on the tour by Orioles pitcher Rick VandenHurk, who has been his friend since childhood.

"He's very well known everywhere in Holland," VandenHurk said. "He was one of the biggest names that we have in baseball. ... I just can't believe this is happening. I just can't comprehend it all. I hope I never comprehend it all."

The last word: "Kids will stop playing baseball because of this." -- agent Scott Boras on the new CBA.

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The Whispers: Market slow for Pujols and Fielder, for now

Executives and agents arrive in Dallas for the winter meetings in a week, which means Hot Stove rumors of all kinds will abound. Among them should include some expanding of the known markets for Albert Pujols and Prince Fielder, which have been slow to build. ... The Pujols negotiations will be held against the backdrop of a highly negative profile of his agent, Dan Lozano, on Deadspin.com. Lozano disputes the facts put forth in the piece -- including an allegation that he would mislead clients about their team's offers, sometimes taking the original offer while telling clients that he had negotiated significant raises -- and Pujols is standing by Lozano. ... Can Yonder Alonso become a solid left fielder? That's the question the White Sox are studying as the Reds shop the left-handed-hitting slugger for pitching. Alonso would be blocked with Paul Konerko at first base and Adam Dunn as designated hitter, although if the Sox really are willing to let Mark Buehrle walk you wonder if they also would approach Konerko about waiving his no-trade clause. ... When the Red Sox asked the Blue Jays for permission to talk to manager John Farrell for Terry Francona's old job, the Blue Jays wanted pitcher Clay Buchholz in return. No wonder Larry Lucchino won't sign off on low-level compensation for Theo Epstein. ... Teams going to the Dominican Republic to work out Yoenis Cespedes are falling in love with another Cuban center fielder, 19-year-old center Jorge Soler, who also is expected to sign soon. ... Right-hander Roy Oswalt was the only Type A free agent who could have been offered arbitration and wasn't. The Cubs offered Carlos Pena, signaling they either are confident he will get a two-year offer elsewhere or won't mind keeping him. His glove is a huge asset for shortstop Starlin Castro, who would have made more than his 29 errors without Pena as the first baseman. ... The new CBA creates the first opportunity to trade draft picks, albeit only ones created by the new competitive balance lottery, which awards extra pick s to the 10 lowest revenue and smallest market teams. It's going to be fascinating to see how many of those picks are traded for players and then to follow up in a few years to see if teams acquiring players would have been better off remaining patient. ... The CBA pushes for more games to be played internationally and puts into writing for the first time that existing non-discrimination protections are to cover gay players. ... Look for MLB to try to obtain random testing for HGH in the near future. Under the just-approved rules, baseball can't draw blood from Opening Day until the end of the season, and it's unclear how long it remains in the bloodstream.

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