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The MLB/MLBPA agreement and the 2020 draft

Some thoughts on a process that is going to change MLB teams’ development modus operandi.

Photo by Alex Trautwig/MLB via Getty Images

I've deliberately written nothing baseball the last few days. Nothing good would have come from it. I was, and still am, dismayed at the agreement the players and owners have come to. Nonetheless, I ought to write something, so now is the time.

Baseball has been a bit of an in-and-out component in my life. It usually raged really hot, or faded like the sun behind clouds, to return with a mild atmospheric change. Jack Brickhouse treated me with respect in my early years. He increased my appreciation of the game before I started school, and after I hurried home. My mom would often call us to the television with a loud bellow of "Sports" shortly after the weather update.

The agreement to be signed seems the worst of quite a few aspects coming together all at once. The players, seeking safety, receive some by selling current and future college and high school players down the river. The last decade or so, I've enjoyed baseball more than before. My sports happiness wasn't guided by wins or losses, but by the Cubs getting incrementally better against the average. When they did, cool. When they didn't, I'd point out what specifically I wish they'd do differently. I couldn't convince a player to stop underperforming, but I could assess which sorts of players made sense from a draft or waivers perspective.

What became eminently clear, if only to me, was how much I enjoyed seeing an afterthought player "figure it out" in the Cubs pipeline, and parlay that into financial success.for instance, David Bote and Robel Garcia both have gotten paid, to an extent. Jack Patterson and Clayton Daniel have gone from "unknown" to "Double-A Ball" by outplaying their opposition. I'm afraid that is largely past tense.

This year’s draft figures to be only five rounds long, though it sounds the owners have a right to extend it to 10, if they want. As you likely know, among the things I've enjoyed about the last however many years of the draft has been the Cubs’ willingness to invest a six-figure bonus to encourage a college junior selected on the third day to sign a contract. Zack Short, now on the 40-man roster, was one of those investments. That sort of investment is likely no longer legal. The maximum non-drafted free agent enticement is now $20,000. With the draft 10 rounds now, and likely 20 rounds in the future, ownership seems to only be interested in freakishly good early round choices, and players with no acceptable job offers. Competition is now a bad thing.

I imagine the Cubs will soon be down to one Short-Season squad, instead of three. The organization won't be able to develop three shortstops and nine or 10 outfielders at the time in Short-Season ball stateside. I haven't seen Tom Ricketts or Theo Epstein call this a horrible turn of events in baseball development for decades to come. Maybe they enjoy the premise.

I truly enjoyed the college baseball season this cycle. Players were playing important games from a win-loss perspective, until they no longer were. I was looking forward to having my list ready for June. Now, the entire experience is tainted for quite a few reasons.

I have no idea where I'll be mentally if/when baseball returns. The cloud cover is growing a bit thick, and I'm not sure how much control I have over the impending lack of brightness. I also don't know how much interest I'll have. I've rarely been the type to seek out the big crowds. A radio call, or minor league audio stream suffices. Or, it did.

A large part of what I enjoyed is being plowed under. Quite a few fans and writers seem to be compensating better than I am. I don't want to say I'm fine, when I feel as if I've been used as a tool by 30 owners, a Commissioner, and the MLBPA. Maybe I'll be good in a few weeks. Or, maybe I'll have to re-invent myself. I'll still write, and track pipeline and draft stuff, but a handful of forces have merged to remove the joy from my current writing. Enjoy, and stay inside.