What Will the New CBA Mean for Rentals?
As ballplayers wade through their final season before hitting free agency, they often find themselves in an interesting limbo position: playing half a season for a contender, in between their last team (who they have just spent the last several years) and their next team (from whom they’ll get a bucket full of money).
CC Sabathia as a Brewer, Randy Johnson as an Astro, Mark Teixeira as an Angel.
Just a few examples of guys that looked out of place for a couple months.
For years, teams have made big trades to rent these individuals – but they’ve also received compensation after the year in the form of a draft pick. This compensation helped to counterbalance the fact that real life bodies were traded for 60 games or 11 starts – not only was it a high-leverage acquisition, but prospects were coming back after the year (though they were further from the show).
This year will be different, however. As part of the newest Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA), signed last December, only players who have been with their previous clubs for the entire season will be subject to compensation.
Meaning rentals will only be rentals. If teams decide to make a trade for one, they’ll be getting a couple months of a good player. Maybe that player will push the team over the finish line, maybe he won’t – and then he’ll most likely be gone, with nothing to show for it.
What does this mean for Cole Hamels, Zack Greinke, and Ryan Dempster, all in the last year of their deals? Hamels and Greinke are both looking at 9-figure deals. Dempster is in a different situation. At 35 years old, Dempster is having a career year, leading the league with a 2.11 ERA. His goal is to secure one last multi-year deal before hanging up his spikes.
All three of these gentlemen are pitching well for teams that should be selling. The question is – where will they end up? And what kind of haul will they bring, now that the marginal benefit of obtaining them is less?
The way I see it, teams acquire rentals to make their pushes. In the case of small market teams, the window for success can be pretty narrow. And because compensatory picks are far from guarantees, the loss of these picks may be considered negligible.
Should it though?
The best way to sustain excellence – especially for those small market, window-limited teams – is to maintain a steady stream of quality prospects. The Yankees can afford to go half a decade between developing star players, but that’s hardly the case for the Rays or Pirates. And the fewer picks you have, the fewer number of high-caliber prospects you’ll potentially have that can become big league contributors.
Bottom line is that it may not be worth it for a team like Pittsburgh to chance everything on this year. They’ve experienced a lengthy drought; pressure is high for them to produce a playoff team. But their fanbase will respond much more strongly to a routine contender than a flash in the pan – at least in the long run.