You have to buy connects now, or upgrade to plus membership. That was an Upwork decision; Preston (and the rest of us) can only guess at why they implemented paid connects. But some of the reasons are in this post: https://community.upwork.com/t5/Announcements/Upcoming-Changes-to-Connects/td-p/580451
Freelancers new and old have to purchase connects to bid. That has no bearing on whether or not you get hired.