The success or failure of the new CBA might just revolve around the Pirates.
When the new CBA was announced it gave some nice benefits in the international market in exchange for a hard cap system in the draft. Teams are penalized excessively for going over their budget assigned by MLB. Each slot is not hard in and of itself, but the cap for the first 10 picks and the draft over all are so hard that it might as well be. There are going to be some "competitive" bonuses to aid the small market teams, but in the end the small market teams gave in on a hard cap to free themselves from being held hostage by agents who demand major league contracts and/or big time dollars.
This year the Pirates draft 8th, and were given a budget for the first 10 rounds. Later round picks cannot go over $100,00 or that counts against your first 10 round budget. Now everybody's big board had Mark Appel going first to the Houston Astros. This would have given him about 7 million in cash (slightly more). Now Appel has Scott Boras as his agent. Boras always goes for the big money, and he made it pretty clear that he was going to go for over the slot money no matter what this year. Boras must have been in shock as his client went from first to 8th and his slot money went from 7 million to 3 million. There is no way Boras is going to let his client get 8th slot money. Boras is going to try and break the system this year. What happens may be the best indicator about this new system. All eyes should be squarely on the Pirates.
Interestingly the Pirates have positioned themselves to play hard ball with some ground to give. They took a very signable player in the comp round. That was budgeted for just over a 1 million, but could come in under that. Rounds 2 through 5, however, were clearly picking the best available player. Some of them could be hard signs. Then the Pirates changed course (in an admittedly weak draft), and rounds 6-10 were very cheap players featuring a couple of seniors and a guy not ranked in the top 500 (word is he already signed for about $88,000 under slot). So they did free up some money for Appel. Yet, the Pirates then picked Walker Buehler in the 14th round. Buehler is the 50th best prospect according to Baseball America. He cannot be given more than $100,000, which he will need to sign. But if the Pirates cannot sign Appel, then $3mil appears, and he could easily be signed without the Pirates incurring penalties.
What MLB has to worry about is what this is going to mean if a talented kid like Appel fails to sign, AND they have to worry about what it means if the Pirates break and give significant over-the-slot money to Appel. The Pirates have to win with slot money or a small over the slot bonus, but still signing the rest of their top 10 picks, and staying under the penalty. If the Pirates fail to do that then the CBA does not work. Agents will still hold teams hostage, and instead of spending a lot of money and getting three or four big time talents in a draft with a lot of regular major leaguers thrown in, small market teams will get one talent and nothing else. All the eggs will now be in one basket. Which means many teams will take the signability route and never ever take a chance on a future superstar. Which will keep them at the bottom of the barrel for years to come.
The future of the CBA is now in a Pirates vs. Boras showdown. It is going to be a doozy.