Bud Selig….Draft Slotting Is Bad For Baseball.


Reportedly the owners, or at least some of them, are trying to get a hard cap on draft picks put into the new collective bargaining agreement. This has been a rumor for some time, as Commissioner Bud Selig has intimated that he is in favor of it. As it stands now, he tries to strong arm teams into following his “suggested” slot money for draft picks by holding things over owners heads, like hosting an All-Star game, or his office not approving contracts until the last minute. Who knew the baseball Commissioner could be so passive-aggressive?

Well, now the cat is out of the bag as Ken Rosenthal of Fox Sports is reporting, hopefully this won’t be something that holds the new CBA from getting taken care of in quick order.

My main question is, how is a hard cap for the draft good for baseball?

The simple answer is it’s not. Now, I don’t claim to know all the intricacies involved in the financial dealings of major league baseball clubs. But what I do know is that hard slotting the draft is going to affect the ability of small market clubs to compete, and ultimately the competitive balance of baseball. Why the commissioner and the owners can’t see that, I am not sure. Or maybe they can. I would venture to guess that the owner of the Rays, Padres and Indians for instance would have to be against this. How about teams like the Nationals that may have the financial resources, but still use the draft as a means of getting better, because it’s hard to get free agents to go there?

All a hard cap will do in baseball is benefit the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and the Angels even more. Teams with tremendous financial resources can drop a ton on free agents, and won’t have to worry about teams like the Royals over paying for talent in the draft. I’m not even sure the Rays would exist if they couldn’t work the draft system to their advantage like they did this past season and prior to 2011. The Tigers themselves would never have been able to draft Rick Porcello and Nick Castellanos if it wasn’t for being able to go way over slot.

That is another drawback of hard slotting. The players. The talent pool of the draft depends on both college and high school players. The numbers of players entering the draft from high school is likely to decrease significantly if they are limited by the amount of money they can make. What this does is push them to college where the player hopes they can improve their value, which isn’t always the case. Not a bad thing in theory, a kid going to college, but it goes against the American way. If a kid coming out of high school is able to get 2-3 million dollars for his talent, he should have the right, especially for pitchers. Why would they want to blow their arm out in college before cashing in? Have any of you seen how college coaches treat their players arms at top schools?

So, if it isn’t good for the players, and it isn’t good for the competitive balance of the league, why are some of the owners and Bud Selig pushing for it?

The almighty dollar of course.

You see, with the current system in place, the amateur draft is essentially a competition. The competition increases the value of the player and drives the price up for the owners when discussing picking the player. Players essentially are telling scouts, x amount of dollars is what it is going to take to keep me from going to college, and owners of course don’t like it. Especially since after the draft, the player could change their demands and force owners hands. The rate of attrition for draft picks in baseball is enormous, so I understand the hesitation in wanting to pay amateurs the kind of money they are getting. The value of spending 3 million on a guy that becomes a star however,  is much more valuable than buying an aging veteran for 3 years in free agency.

This value is why small market clubs like the Royals get aggressive in the draft. Why is Bud Selig allowed to push this on small market teams like this that choose to build their clubs this way?

In fairness, I should mention another point behind why some owners may want hard slotting. It’s largely due to not wanting to pay big bonuses, but it also has to due with teams being able to sign their picks. The theory is if a player knows ahead of time what they are going to get, the likelihood they don’t sign will be less and teams will be able to pick the best player available. For instance, 20 some teams won’t pass on Rick Porcello worried about his demands because there is no real negotiation going on.

My counter argument to that would be, slotting doesn’t mean that a player is going to sign, especially if it is a high schooler or college junior. In fact, it might mean quite the opposite. It might cause players to reject going to the team that selected them, or have them telling teams, “don’t select me, I won’t sign with you.” They could just enter the draft again the following year, hoping to find a more suitable team to themselves. There would have to be safeguards put in to protect against this, but I have no idea how you could do that.

Money is the equalizer here. Pittsburgh can convince Josh Bell to play for them by dropping a ton of money in his lap. If they had picked him first overall with a hard cap of 1.5 million dollars. He goes to college.

My worry is that the current players will budge. While players unions don’t like a cap of any sort, even on future players that aren’t a part of the union yet, concessions for current players could be made by the owners to satisfy the players union. Simply put, they could expand the rosters by one player to get another union member paid, or they could raise the minimum salary a little bit. Either way, if it is financially beneficial for the owners to make a concession to current players that costs less than the salaries of draft picks, it could get done.

Obviously, a hard cap is something I don’t want to see. Teams like the Tampa Rays are good for baseball, and while they can still be successful using their philosophy by scouting better than others, it will take away any advantage they could gain by going over slot. The Royals, Nats, Pirates, and Blue Jays are teams that are entirely focused on building teams through the draft, and their progress could be damaged immensely. These teams can’t spend like the haves of baseball can. The effect won’t necessarily be that they are wiped out, but rather have the effect of a person that is constantly getting their leg broken. They will operate with a limp.

Bud Selig has done some good things, and well, some not so good things as Commissioner. They are also talking about adding a playoff team. That could keep interest in more cities for longer. Good idea, but this draft slotting one, Selig should stay away from.

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Tags: Baseball Amateur Draft Boston Red Sox Bud Selig CBS Josh Bell Kansas City Royals New York Yankees Nick Castellanos Pittsburgh Pirates Rick Porcello Tampa Bay Rays Toronto Blue Jays Washington Nationals

  • SeanColeman

    Seems to me that your entire argument against draft slotting is it will not help out the small market teams because players would simply chose to go to college rather then sign. To me this is a short term problem as in 4 years you would have the entire draft class of 2013 who apparently all elected to go to school and life goes on. You also state “All a hard cap will do in baseball is benefit the Yankees, Red Sox, Mets and the Angels even more. Teams with tremendous financial resources can drop a ton on free agents, and won’t have to worry about teams like the Royals over paying for talent in the draft.” This doesn’t make any sense. You are saying with a slot draft, teams like the Royals won’t have to overpay for talent in the draft like they do now and this somehow makes them less competitive? How in the world do you figure this would make the Yankees and Red Sox spend even more on Free Agents when those teams drop over 100 million on free agents now? I am actually a Blue Jays fan and your statement “The Royals, Nats, Pirates, and Blue Jays are teams that are entirely focused on building teams through the draft, and their progress could be damaged immensely.” isn’t accurate. In the last draft in fact the Blue Jays used their first pick on Beede who then tried to hold the team’s nuts to the fire demanding in upwards of 5 million dollars for signing. When this was refused, he simply bolted for school and guess what? We have NO 1st round pick for 2011. So don’t give me this crap about how a slot draft is going to make kids dart for school because they do that now when their outrageous salary demands. One of the benefits of a slot draft that you don’t mention, is that the kids in the draft anticipate what they will be getting going into it so that indeed the ones that bolt for school will do so and not waste the time of the small market teams. The Pirates, Rays, Mariners, Jays and Indians will know that at least they kid they are drafting plans to play and will not simply blackmail them with the threat of going to school. In the current system, all the power lays in the hands of some 18 year old unproven snot nose kid and his slick agent and that is what is killing the small market teams. In fact, you know who’s draft picks don’t bolt for school in the current system? The big spenders because 6 million is nothing to them. They throw their money at at their draft picks and what do you know? Yankees and Red Sox draft choices almost never go to school.

    • ChrisHannum

      Teams like the Yankees don’t really care much about the draft. They seem to prefer Latin America where free agency is still the rule for raw talent. If draft slotting doesn’t fix this, it does nothing.

      As for small market teams, nothing is killing them. Nothing. Sure, Boston has the cash to spend on John Lackey, Daisuke Matsuzaka and Carl Crawford – but those albatross contracts aren’t exactly helping them win. Washington is a large market. Seattle is a large market. Houston is a large market. Tampa Bay has 3 fans and a boatload of playoff appearances. Cincinnati has been winning, Milwaukee has been winning, the Mets have not.

      I understand that if you are this full of righteous anger about the warped playing field in baseball you are probably a fan of a team that hasn’t been winning but chances are better than good that the team simply hasn’t been well run from the ground up.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @SeanColeman if you are a Blue Jays fan, I don’t know why you are so angry, nobody has used spending in the draft instead of free agency to their advantage more than the Blue Jays the last couple of years. Its given them their top farm system.

  • SeanColeman

    The fact is, the current system benefits the big spending teams just the same as free agency because they can throw money around and afford to take gambles on players that smaller market teams just cannot. The Tigers never should have had to overpay for Rick Porcello and Nick Castellanos. If they intended to go to school, they should have done so and the Tigers could have got them at a reasonable price 4 years later in the draft. Why do Porcello and Castellanos hold all the power as unproven teenage players? Isn’t it better to pay slot price for them or if not them, a player drafted in their place that isn’t going to play the college blackmail game? Is it fair that a terrible team like the Pirates or maybe the Mariners didn’t even take a shot at Porcello and Castellanos when drafting before the Tigers because they couldn’t afford to throw the money the TIgers did at them? Explain to me again your argument against slot drafting, but this time don’t use backwards logic and fear mongering that sounds like it was written by a greasy baseball agent.

    • MCBjohnverburg

      @SeanColeman Its basic supply and demand Sean. They hold the power because they have something that teams want. Talent. They are able to do something at a high level that not many people can, why shouldn’t they get paid for it?

  • Sam Genson

    I could not agree more John. If the owners and the Commish want to improve the draft to make it a more level playing field, then they need to allow draft pick trading. Draft slotting “works” in the NFL because the players come in and contribute immediately. While you are paying for potential, you are also paying for performance. In the MLB you are paying the vast majority of the signing bonus on potential with the slight hope that they can perform.