The Players Association will hold an informational session with player agents Tuesday to review the new Basic Agreement it reached with baseball owners. Management has already been given the 70-plus-page agreement, which is now in effect following the conclusion of the World Series.
Neither agents nor team officials have a full understanding of the nuances and/or loopholes in the agreement yet.
Will it increase free agent salaries and competition for those players? Will it reduce the number of trades, particularly of younger players, who will now be under the control of teams for an extra year? Will it increase payrolls across the board with a rising threshold tax (increased by almost $12 million)?
Red Sox principal owner John W. Henry has issued a "no comment" on the agreement. As a large-market team, the Sox must pay out a lot in revenue sharing, and are likely to spend close to the $148 million tax threshold.
According to Rich Hahn, assistant general manager of the White Sox and a Harvard Law School graduate, there will be major changes on two fronts: in the draft, and in the Rule 5 protection from three years to four.
"The extra year of Rule 5 protection affects approximately 800 players in major league baseball," said Hahn. "The ability for teams to have an extra year to make a determination on a player gives the teams a great deal of flexibility."
As for draft protection, if a team can't sign its pick, it receives the same pick the following year, which eases the pain.
The new Aug. 15 deadline for signing draft picks should also provide a drag on amateur draft salaries, and reduce what are often contentious negotiations.
"I think it definitely gives the team back some leverage," Hahn said.
The other interesting aspect of the agreement is the elimination of all the key free agent dates -- Jan. 8 (last day a club can re-sign its own free agents) and May 1 (the first day a player can re-sign with his former team if he hadn't already).
"The new CBA will level the playing field for a team losing a free agent," said longtime agent Randy Hendricks. "The prior system was put in as a response to the owners' collusion of the mid-to-late 1980s. The current belief that the parties have a very good working relationship has relieved many of those concerns. Hence, the Jan. 8 and May 1 dates have been abolished. This means that a team losing a free agent can negotiate continuously with that free agent under the same rules as the other 29 clubs. That did not exist over the past 16 or so years."
Said Hahn, "I think the benefit for the team would be that we have more time to evaluate the medical situation of a player. We've had that situation twice in Chicago with Magglio Ordonez and Frank Thomas. We've had to make a decision by a certain date. Where now we would be able to extend that indefinitely and have more information to deal with. It's not that we would have necessarily made a different decision with Ordonez or Thomas, but certainly we would have had more updated information to make our decision with."
While GMs such as Houston's Tim Purpura think the elimination of the Dec. 20 date to offer arbitration to your own free agents or the Jan. 8 date to sign them is a positive, agent Alan Nero feels, "It will help some and hurt others." When a team had to make a tough decision on a veteran free agent by a certain date, Nero felt more often than not the team chose to make the commitment.
One of the reasons Purpura likes the rule is because last season the Astros did not offer Roger Clemens arbitration by Dec. 20, and then weren't able to re-sign him until after May 1. In the end it didn't matter anyway, since Clemens didn't re-sign until June 22.
Agent Gregg Clifton thinks the new rules might affect the number of September call-ups. The minor league salary for a player with one year on the 40-man roster or one day of major league service has risen to $60,000 from $54,500. And players added to the 40-man for the first time will see a bit of a hike to $30,000 from the mid-20,000s.
All agree that the changes aren't drastic, and that labor peace is the most important thing.
College report on Bard
A few questions for the Tigers' No. 1 pick, lefthanded pitcher Andrew Miller:
Q. Red Sox No. 1 pick Daniel Bard was your teammate at the University of North Carolina. Tell me about his stuff.
AM: "He's a really good pitcher. He's got an unbelievable arm. He throws as hard as anybody you'll see. For a starter, he can get it up in the mid-to-upper 90s. It's real hard and his delivery is really free and easy. He doesn't muscle up anything. I talked to him while he was down in the instructional league and he was throwing 100 and 101 m.p.h. when he was down there and he was pretty excited about that."
Q. Throw harder than you?
AM: "He throws harder than me. Not even a question."
Q: What's he got?
AM: "He's got a slider and a changeup. He's been working on a curveball. He's worked on his other pitches. He certainly has a fastball. And I'm sure with the help he'll get from pitching instructors he'll refine those secondary pitches. But he features his fastball. I mean, I've seen a few other guys who throw as hard as he does, but for a starter, he's one of the hardest-throwing starters I've seen."
Q: Are you guys good friends?
AM: "Really good friends. Me and him were a couple of the last guys signed in the first round. We talked back and forth about what was going on during the negotiations and we were curious about how the other was doing. I think it went well for the both of us."
Q: Do you think he came close to going back to college?
AM: "I don't know. It's hard to let someone go back to school. He could have gone in the first 5-10 picks. Guys like that don't go back to school very often. I think he had it in the back of his mind just in case negotiations didn't work out."
Q: What's he need to get better at?
AM: "Same thing we all do as young pitchers. We need to learn to pitch in the big leagues. It's so much different than college. You've got great hitters here and they can hit a fastball. You have to learn to pitch. But he doesn't have any flaws, so when he learns that stuff, he'll be a top major league pitcher."
Harrington lost out when Leyland had a change of heart
Former Red Sox CEO John Harrington has always been a big fan of Detroit manager Jim Leyland. In fact, Harrington thought he had enticed him to become the Red Sox manager before the 1997 season, when Leyland ultimately declined and the Sox turned to Jimy Williams.
"I remember Dan [ Duquette] and I met him at an airport, and when we turned around and went home, we thought we had him hired," Harrington recalled. "Jim went back home and talked it over with his wife, who had gone to school in the Boston area, and she talked him out of it, feeling that she didn't want Jim exposed to the climate in Boston with the fans and the media and all of the attention.
"It's too bad, because he would have been a great manager in Boston, and to come that close to landing him was very disappointing."
It wasn't the first time Harrington had lost out on a big-name manager. He and Haywood Sullivan nearly came to terms on a two-year deal with Whitey Herzog. Another one that got away was Joe Torre, who was going to be hired had not "Morgan Magic" removed the "interim" status of Joe Morgan.
Harrington at one time was a candidate to be commissioner of baseball, but he said he didn't think he ever had the special attributes needed for the job. Harrington conducted statistical and financial studies for Bud Selig, and the two became very close.
"I enjoyed working on the committees and the special projects Bud had me involved with," said Harrington, who now runs the Yawkey Foundation, which gives millions of dollars to charitable ventures.
"Some of the things we worked on back then, like interleague play and revenue sharing, I think were good for the fans and good for the game. Bud has done a terrific job. The game is in excellent financial shape. It's great to see."
Nick Cafardo can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; material from personal interviews, wire services, other beat writers, and league and team sources was used in this report.