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RULES CHANGE ON PICKS LABOR AGREEMENT ALTERS MLB DRAFT.

Byline: TONY JACKSON Staff Writer

Major League Baseball's new labor agreement, which was announced jointly Tuesday by commissioner Bud Selig and players' union executive director Don Fehr, contains several significant changes in the way the 30 clubs will do business.

Among the most profound is the impact it will have on the annual June amateur draft beginning next summer.

Clubs will retain signing rights to the players they draft only until Aug. 15, barely two months after the two-day draft is completed. After that, players who are drafted but choose not to accept what the club is offering go back into the pool for the next year's draft.

The deadline will be unchanged only for college seniors, who have the least negotiating leverage of all drafted players and typically aren't high draft picks.

In the past, clubs have retained signing rights until the following May, with the deadline coming a week before the next season's draft. The result has been several protracted and, at times, contentious negotiations for top picks.

Angels right-hander Jered Weaver was taken with the 12thoverall pick in the 2004 draft from Long Beach State but couldn't sign until May 2005, when he agreed to a $4 million bonus.

Another is Luke Hochevar, the University of Tennessee pitcher who the Dodgers took with the 40th pick in the 2005 draft. Hochevar turned down the club's final offer of $2.98million and re-entered the draft after the deadline passed, then was taken first overall by Kansas City in the 2006 draft and agreed to a $5 million bonus.

``It's definitely going to be different from what it was,'' said Dodgers scouting director Logan White, who runs the club's drafts.

Another result of the new deadline is it effectively eliminates the longstanding practice of ``drafting and following'' -- where a player is drafted only to secure signing rights with no intention of signing him immediately.

The club's scouting staff then ``follows'' that player through his season the next spring, almost always at a junior college, then makes a decision whether to sign him just before the deadline.

Most clubs end up choosing not to sign the vast majority of those players. Draft-and-follows almost exclusively comprise the final 30 rounds of the 50-round draft.
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:Daily News (Los Angeles, CA)
Date:Oct 27, 2006
Words:373
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