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MLB Labor Deal Reached: Big Changes Ahead in Draft

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Major League Baseball and the Players Union have just announced a five-year labor deal.

Details are still being clarified for the public, but it includes an increase in the minimum salary, a testing regime for human growth hormone, shifting of the Houston Astros from the National League Central to the American League West in 2013, and the addition of two wild-card slots.

The big news for prospect watchers: major changes in the First-Year-Player Draft. This reportedly includes alterations in the free agent compensation formula, and "a luxury tax" on teams that spend above a certain figure in the draft.

That last thing is a big red flag to me. This sounds like an attempt to keep rich teams from loading up on "above-slot" bonus players and help competitive balance, but depending on exactly what the monetary limits are, it could easily backfire and hurt more teams than it helps. I guess we'll have to see what the details are on that and I'll reserve judgment until we find out more.

Overall, I have to say I'm pleased that baseball has avoided the ugly labor strife endemic in the other major sports. It didn't use to be that way, and an entire generation of fans has now grown up without having to worry about the sport shutting down every four years. That is a great achievement. Now we'll have to see how the specifics of the package work. In general I think the draft works pretty well, and I'm suspicious about the changes we've heard of so far.

UPDATE: As I said earlier, we need to see what the details are. Jim Callis at Baseball America points out that as more details become available, it appears the impact may not be as severe as originally feared.

At this point, I still think we need to reserve judgment.