“The” deadline this time of year is the Trade Deadline, which is still a little more than a week away. But the owners and the players saw fit to create another deadline, borne out of their only-partly-successful CBA negotiations back in March. Today is the deadline for the sides to make a deal on the International Draft – if they do, the Qualifying Offer system for free agents goes away. If there is no deal, then the status quo prevails. That means the Qualifying Offer system stays, as does the International Free Agent system of bonus pools, with its way-too-early deals, corruption, less dollars overall for international players (but freedom of choice on where to sign).
The latest updates on whether a deal today is happening continue to look pessimistic:
I suspect the big dollar difference (barely $2 million per organization) is not the biggest bone of contention. It’s that part about the slots being minimum in the player proposal, and hard slots in the owner proposal. That’s an enormous difference that could lead to huge disparities in spending among the teams, which is exactly the kind of thing that certain groups of owners fought like hell to squash.
The dollar amount in the owner offer, by the way, would represent an increase of nearly $30 million over the total bonus pool amount for the last IFA spending period. We don’t have the details, so there could be some funny business in there, but it seems like this structure would guarantee international players quite a bit more money. That, coupled with the opportunity to rid the system of the corruption and the signing of wink-wink deals with 13-year-olds, is what makes me think a deal today would be a good idea.
But I’m not freaking out either way, and I have no expectation that a huge gap will suddenly be bridged.
The two deadlines – today’s and the trade deadline – aren’t entirely disconnected, by the way: because there are players who could be subject to a Qualifying Offer who might be traded this week, it would be preferable for teams to know precisely what those free agencies are going to look like before they agree on trades.
It could impact the shape of those trades, including Willson Contreras, at the margins of the return. I tend to think if the current Qualifying Offer system stays in place, the Cubs would probably . raise the floor of what they would accept in a Contreras trade, knowing they could make him that offer and get a post-second-round pick (or have him accept the offer) after the season. If there is a deal, the compensation the Cubs would get for Contreras walking in free agency would be, according to reporting back in March, much lower (something like a post-4th-rounder). But I think the Cubs are going to be able to net enough in trade this week, regardless of the system, to go way over any “floor” considerations anyway. Still, I understand that you’d rather have certainty before pulling the trigger.
Also consider a player like Xander Bogaerts, who is suddenly a theoretical trade candidate now that the Red Sox are cratering. If there is no deal today and the Qualifying Offer system stays in place, then you really would want to see him get traded this week so that he cannot be tied to draft pick compensation after the season. The Cubs, for example, are going to once again be very hesitant to give up a high second round pick (and bonus pool space, and IFA bonus pool space) to sign a player. They have been connected, strongly, to Bogaerts.
(Very, very small consideration on David Robertson: although he would not receive a Qualifying Offer from the Cubs after the season because he would accept it (the specter of draft pick compensation would crush his market and he would not sign a large enough deal for the Cubs to get a pick anyway), hey could net them modest compensation in a different system where teams that lose free agents get a pick if an outgoing free agent signs a large enough contract. We’re getting really deep in the weeds here for something we don’t even know may or may not happen, but the very short version, and it’s the opposite of the Contreras situation: there’s a teeny, tiny chance that the floor on a Robertson trade would go up slightly if there *is* a deal today.)
Ultimately, if there is progress today, the sides could agree to an extension of another day or three. But, again, I think there’s going to be a desire to have a final decision very soon, given the looming Trade Deadline. Then again, that impacts only a handful of players/teams this week, so it won’t be the controlling factor if there is a chance for a deal on the draft, which is far more important, far wider-reaching, and with far more long-term implications.
Given how these things have gone in the past, frankly, I’m kind of expecting another extension/punt.