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Good and bad news for Red Sox in MLB’s new CBA

The deal is done, and we kind of won? But mostly lost.

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World Series - Cleveland Indians v Chicago Cubs - Game Four Photo by Elsa/Getty Images

The owners and MLBPA have reached a deal on a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, assuring that baseball will be back as usual come April. And while the updates to the agreement weren’t exactly massive, a few of them will certainly have an impact on the Red Sox in seasons to come.

The two biggest changes for Boston are likely those applied to international free agents and domestic free agents with a qualifying offer attached. Starting with the international market, a hard cap has been placed on international free agent spending of about $5 million. That means there’s no system of penalties or exceptions or any of that. Teams can’t go over $5 million, and that’s that.

This is bad news for the Red Sox, but not quite as bad as it could have been. An international draft would have left the Red Sox largely unable to play for big-name international free agents except when everything went horribly awry in a given season—unless said draft was determined by market size or payroll, in which case they wouldn’t even have that as an out. Now, they’re just on equal footing with everyone least financially.

The problem for the Red Sox comes in actually incentivizing players to come to Boston without relying on their wallets. And that’s going to be hard. I expect most Red Sox fans also have a fondness for Boston—I am no exception. But we are also not so naive as to think our view of the city is the same as the international view. While the Red Sox do have some history going for them, it’s going to be hard to sell some of the biggest free agents on coming to Boston over, say, New York or—especially for players from warmer climates—cities like Miami or Los Angeles.

To that end, and so long as this system remains in place, it’s going to be increasingly important for teams that can’t just rely on their location to maintain a major presence in big IFA markets, with big foreign-born stars likely paying decent dividends. While David Ortiz is retired now, one wonders if the Red Sox won’t ask him to shake some hands (or, more likely with Ortiz, give some hugs) in the near future.

When it comes to domestic free agents, the big news is that the qualifying offer system is no longer nearly so harsh for teams acquiring players. Those teams that are over the luxury tax will forfeit a second- and fifth-round pick along with $1 million in international bonus pool money, while those under will lose a third. There’s no word on how the CBA will handle teams signing multiple QO free agents yet, but at least for now the penalties will often not be as harsh as losing a first rounder.

This change will certainly leave the Red Sox more aggressive in their pursuit of big-name free agents, particularly if they manage to stay under that threshold in the years to come (it will quickly rise over $200 million). In the immediate future, though, it doesn’t seem likely to impact their approach to the 2016-2017 offseason. If anything, Edwin Encarnacion’s market will only be bolstered by the news, and the Sox’ objection to diving into that particular race always seemed to be based more on money and years than draft considerations.

And on the other side of things, teams losing QO free agents will only get a pick back if the player signs a contract for at least $50 million. That part isn’t so bad for the Red Sox, since most qualifying offer players end up making that much anyways. This probably only ends up impacting a few relievers and older players, and big-market teams are generally better able to absorb the risk of actually retaining their older players or making a luxury investment in a reliever.

What is unfortunate for the Red Sox: the pick the team gets back will depend on market size. Where exactly that leaves the Red Sox isn’t certain yet, but they’ll certainly not be getting the premium picks of, say, Milwaukee or Cincinnati.

Other tidbits:

  • The All-Star Game no longer decides home field advantage for the World Series. (Source: AP)
  • The 15-day disabled list is now the 10-day disabled list, allowing for more aggressive use. (Source: Same AP)
  • Teams that exceed the luxury tax by significant amounts are going to face much harsher penalties. (Source: Joel Sherman)
  • The season is a bit longer now to facilitate a few more off-days. (Source: Ken Rosenthal)
  • There are rules to save teams from that unfortunate situation that the Red Sox ran into in the middle of August, when they had to saplay a night game in Baltimore in the middle, fly to Detroit, and tackle a day game with barely any time to sleep in between. (Source: Bob Nightengale)
  • No 26th roster spot. The Sox will certainly be facing a bit of a roster crunch.