Baseball has been doing really well in recent years, so there was little doubt in my mind that capital and labor interests would reach an agreement before the December 1st deadline. Turns out, they did! This is some complicated nit and grit about how the business of baseball works, so I figured it'd be a good idea to run down all the significant changes and how they might affect the way the Reds do their business. So let's run 'em down one by one, in order of importance:
International Free Agency
This one is a really big deal. There was talk of instituting a draft for international players, but that got nixed. Instead, spending on international free agents (the 16-year-old Dominican and Venezuelan kids) has been capped at $5-6 million per team. This also includes Cuban-born players under 23 years old (or 25, as I've seen reported a few places) with five years of experience in Serie Nacional (the Cuban league).
This means that big $30 million deals for guys like Yoan Moncada and Aroldis Chapman are a thing of the past. Heck, even regular ol' non-blockbuster deals for amateurs will change dramatically. Take a look at the list of the top amateur free agents from the past year and the contracts they signed. The Reds signed Vlad Gutierrez for $4.75 mil and Alfredo Rodriguez for $7 mil. That won't happen ever again.
I think this is really, really bad for the Reds. Spending money on young talent, either through the draft or international free agency like this, is one of the ways mid-market teams can compete with the big spenders like the Dodgers and Yankees. Signing a kid like Gutierrez and hoping you can develop him into the next Zack Greinke is way cheaper and more cost-effective than signing the actual Zack Greinke. This neutralizes one of the few strategies smart teams use to compete.
Free Agent Compensation and Qualifying Offers
This is a welcome change. Teams will no longer have to forfeit a first-round draft pick to sign a free agent who rejected a qualifying offer from his previous team. Compensation picks will now be lower in the draft, though I'm not exactly sure where yet. I've seen anywhere from the second round to the fifth round. Also, it seems the signing team's market size will play a factor. Essentially, top-market teams like the Dodgers will forfeit higher picks and lower market teams like the Reds will forfeit lower picks. Also also, this draft pick compensation will only kick in if the player signs for more than $50 million.
The old system was brutal, so any change would probably have been a step in the right direction, but I think this goes some ways toward making the process more ideal. To my knowledge, the Reds haven't made a qualifying offer to player since Shin-soo Choo at the end of the '13 season, but I didn't look it up. Even so, this new system will have a few mostly desirable effects on a team like the Reds.
Teams with players who are about to become free agents will be more inclined to trade them at the July deadline rather than hold on to them and hope for draft pick compensation following a qualifying offer. If the pick is lower than the first round, it's value is dramatically lower. This probably means more fun deadline deals, which is fun.
Also, this likely means far fewer players accepting qualifying offers and instead getting free agent contracts that better reflect their fair market value. Somebody like Jeremy Hellickson, who recently accepted a QO from the Phillies, will be far more likely to decline and instead sign a multi-year deal elsewhere. This is good, as I bet the Phillies really don't want to pay Hellickson $17 mil next season and Hellickson would most likely rather get the multiple years and multiple millions he would surely make as a free agent. It's a win-win.
The season is now four days longer
They will still play 162 games, but the players will get a few more off days in the schedule. This might seem like a small and insignificant change, but those extra days off will be most welcomed come August.
The All-Star Game no longer determines home-field advantage in the World Series
This rule was high up the list for dumbest things ever, so I'm really happy to see it go. Home field will now go to the team with the better regular-season record, as God intended.
The 15-day DL is now the 10-day DL
The minimum amount of time a player must spend on the disabled list before being re-activated will now be ten days rather than 15. The Reds hardly ever use the DL for injured players, of course, so this probably doesn't change much either way, but still.
And plenty more to come
The new CBA isn't official yet, as labor and capital have really only agreed to not lock out or strike. They haven't really agreed to anything yet aside from agreeing that will definitely come to an agreement soon. So there are sure to be new details that come out as things unfold.