It used to be that when a team spent money on mediocre bench veterans or middle relievers, they were unwittingly chipping away at their minor-league system. That's because $1 million spent on the bench was $1 million less to buy out a college commitment in the draft. Big money teams like the Boston Red Sox used this strategy often, and in recent years, the Washington Nationals and Pittsburgh Pirates did as well.
But no more. The new Collective Bargaining Agreement took care of that, as the owners found a way to save money that didn't involve the current members of the Major League Baseball Players Association. Bonuses will be regulated with an iron fist this year, and teams are expected to spend far, far less money. For a fantastic recap, Alex Speier has you covered at WEEI.com:
If a team doesn’t sign a pick in the top 10 rounds, it "forfeits" that slot in its bonus pool. So, if the Red Sox do not sign their second first-round pick (No. 31 overall), their pool would be diminished by the $1.575 million slot for that pick.
As such, figuring out a draftee’s signability will prove more important than ever. Teams won’t have the option of simply reallocating money that had been earmarked for one player and giving it to another if they fail to find middle ground with him.
The primer is Red Sox-centric, but it's one of the best I've read. The draft will be interesting; the weeks that follow will be even more interesting. There will be lots of gamesmanship as agents and teams figure out what's going on under the new rules.