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Another year, another draft signing deadline, and more deals than ever not getting announced until the final hours, and in the end, more money than ever being spent on bonuses. There are no real shocks here, no big surprises, as in the end, San Diego selection Karsten Whitson was the only first-round pick not to come to terms for purely monetary purposes.

So now we prepare for next year's draft, the final one under the current collective bargaining agreement. Expect even more holdouts next August and, therefore, even more spending. But what about 2012? Here are some modest proposals, but for now, I'll stay away from the word 'fix.'

Eliminate the concept of slots, be they recommended, or hard

The current slot system is a joke, as they are merely recommended by Major League Baseball, with no true means of enforcement, other than their ability to fine a team if they do not go through the over-slot process, which involves telling MLB about your intention to go above the slot and then getting yelled at in return. In addition, a true hard-slot system that would restrict what teams could spend with every pick would be flat-out bad for baseball in every way. The argument here is not one of rich vs. poor or fairness, but a much larger for-the-good-of-the-game one. Hard slots mean that Major League Baseball has decided to steer players away from the game, as without the ability to exceed even recommended slots, a large number, if not a majority of, high school players selected after the first two or three rounds would elect to go to college or, even worse, attend college and pursue another sport. The minor leagues would quickly be stripped of talent, and MLB would be cutting off its nose to spite its face. It's time to let the market rule here, and let teams be treated like adults who can make their own decisions about what players are, or are not, worth. The bigger question, of course, is why does MLB put so much effort into the draft, when even with their inflation, the overwhelming number of bonuses amount to less than what most teams pay for the 11th man on their pitching staff?

Move up the deadline, and no more holding back announcements

When first instituted, the August 15 signing deadline was designed to end the year-long holdouts that were becoming disturbingly more common. A sound goal to be sure, but at the same time, they've created a monster that sees more players waiting until the deadline each year as history tells them that those who wait are those who get the most money. Teams and players simply don't need two months to work out a deal; often they only need two days. Let's get the players off their couches with a PlayStation controller in their hands and onto the fields. A July 15 deadline provides plenty of time to get a deal done while also allowing players to get between 30 and 40 professional games under their belt, as opposed to simply participating in fall instructional league and waiting seven months for an official debut. Another contributing factor that prevents players from hitting the field is MLB's misguided policy of withholding approval of above-slot deals until the last possible moment under the belief that such announcements would simply drive up bonuses. There is absolutely no evidence to support that belief, as bonuses and total spending rises at the same rate, so it's time to end the charade. When a player and a team have a deal done, regardless of money, it's in the best interest of everyone to get him playing.

Allow the trading of draft picks

I shared some of these theories with a baseball insider, and his first reaction was, “How will this keep bonuses down?” My answer: it won't. That's not my goal here, and as we've already seen, MLB's attempts to achieve less spending have created more problems than solutions, while stricter measures have the potential to be damaging to the game itself. That said, certainly there will be teams that don't want to match the spending ways of others. To counter that, it's time to allow for the trading of picks just like any other team asset. If a non-spending team has the third pick in the draft and doesn't want to pay the prevailing rate, nothing should prevent that team from marketing that pick in return for existing, more proven commodities. Such a system would help balance the distribution of talent in its own way.

Many believe that the draft will, for the first time, no longer be the red-headed stepchild in collective bargaining, and many major changes are being discussed in order to help curb spending. As one big-league executive said to me last year, “Every time Major League Baseball tries to 'fix' the draft, they just create more problems.” So, in reality, the best way to fix the draft just might be to stop trying to fix the draft.  

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Mountainhawk
8/20
If they aren't going to have a worldwide draft, they should just dump the draft entirely, have a 4-6 week amateur signing window, and put a cap on the total amount spent by any one team on amateur players, with the cap dependent on the prior years record.
joheimburger
8/20
why would you cap it?
Mountainhawk
8/20
Because the goal of MLB is to put an entertaining product on the field to compete with other entertainment choices, and the best way to do that isto ensure that the same 4-5 teams don't sign every single good player in existence.
mrabesa
8/20
But would this really happen? The A's got Ynoa, the Reds got Chapman, the Twins got Sano, the Pirates just unloaded on this year's draft, etc. I'm not so sure that the same 4-5 teams (Yanks, Sox, and so on) would always be signing the biggest names.
kgoldstein
8/20
Great point. More and more "small" market teams are learning that this is where the biggest potential profits are and spending a ton to improve their team. The current system gives them that opportunity MUCH MUCH more than any capped system would.
Mountainhawk
8/20
Also, they don't need to shorten the signing window, they need to extend it. Teams should hold rights 1 years + number of years of college eligibility left.
mattcollins
8/20
That's a horrible idea. Why would I ever draft a college player if I were a team? I'd draft 50 high schoolers, sign no more than 10, and let the other 40 go to college where I would offer them contracts only if I liked what I saw in college. College baseball would essentially become a minor-leagues where players aren't paid. And like Kevin said about a hard slot system, something like this would drive away players who are two or three sport athletes, or even those who have other non-sport opportunities, which only dilutes the product you put on the field as MLB. Why not bring back the reserve clause while we're at it?
Mountainhawk
8/20
It works in other sports. Hockey teams draft 18 year olds all the time, and they have their rights until July 1st after the kid graduates colleges. It gives the kid options (go to college or start pro career right away) and doesn't allow the player to use college years as leverage.
oneofthem
8/20
How do you know it "works"?
tdrury
8/20
Mountainhawk with the NHL most of the kids that are going to "go pro right away" aren't playing in high school hoping to play college hockey, they're playing in Major Junior.
tdrury
8/20
And the other kicker there is that the teenage draft eligible kids playing major junior are ineligible to play NCAA hockey.
alexknapik
8/20
Hockey players tend to be hockey players, whereas a significant percentage of baseball players have had significant success in football and basketball.
bcmurph07
8/20
How is that "other sports" that's one sport
oneofthem
8/20
From the players perspective, although amateur guys are not in the union, their talent is a direct replacement for the veteran players. If you make your replacement cheaper, that's simply undercutting yourself even more, especially with the recent trend of teams getting smarter about drafts vs FA. this is the #1 issue for the players union.
ostrowj1
8/20
I don't see how reducing draft bonuses necessarily decreases pro salaries. Before depressing bonuses (in my opinion) all prospective MLB players are already consumed, so lowering the cost of draft picks would not suddenly increase the amount of amateurs signed. Of course, this would affect salaries if the draft pick compensation continues, but that is a different battle.
oneofthem
8/20
I'm talking about hard slotting and further measures of increasing team control over the amateur pipeline.
lemppi
8/20
Nice article Kevin G. How can you send this to Bud Selig to make sure he reads it? Listening to Bud speak, he's "all in" on some of the proposed "fixes". Is there any doubt he'll push it through? The union will give in on the draft to get other goodies. Won't they? Is there any word from the Union on fighting to keep the draft closer to what it is now and not make the changes in order to just "curb bonuses"?
oneofthem
8/20
Their aim isn't to fix anything, it's to get what they want vs what players want.
doncoffin
8/20
There is no convincing economic rationale for the amateur player draft. ALL it does is depress signing bonuese and initial salaries, especially for the most talented amateur players (even though those players already receive the highest bonuses and initial salaries, they are depressed; players further down the talent scale are also being exploited, but not as badly). End the draft. Free the players. Let the free market rule.
oneofthem
8/20
Agreed.
fawcettb
8/26
Your logic is a little flawed. If we're operating a free-market, how do you even limit the number of MLB teams without restricting the market's "freedom? Kevin Goldstein and I and a couple of rich guys would, by your logic, have the right to operated our own MLB team. I'm just not sure that all rights ought to be conferred by money, which is what would occur if we let the free market rule in baseball.
ostrowj1
8/20
The affects of a "free market" are highly dependent on how you perceive MLB. Personally, I think it is most accurate to think of MLB as one organization. Each team is subdivision of Major League Baseball. A few weeks ago I had an (unsuccessful) interview at Google. When they do offer someone a job, they (or any other company) offer a contract paying X amount working in group Y. If group Z wants an employee, they are not going to try to outbid group Y. The prospective employee cannot go around to all the groups in order to find a higher bidder. If you think of the MLB as one entity, then players should only expect to be paid more than their worth to any non-MLB company. The only players with any real bargaining power are the multi sport athletes. I do think it is very remarkable that people with such specialized skills, skills that are only useful to a very small number of organizations (and only 1 organization in the USA) can demand so much from their employer.
joheimburger
8/20
This would of course be valid if each teams was not owned by a separate entity
ostrowj1
8/20
Teams may be owned by different entities, but the entities don't have nearly the kind of control over their teams as a typical business owner has over his business. Owners have surrendered so much control over their product to MLB that I find it hard to think of major league baseball as a collection of 30 individual businesses.
Mountainhawk
8/20
Each franchise is owned by a separate entity. Key word there is franchise. Do you think two Burger Kings compete with each other, or are they competing with McDonalds?
BillJohnson
8/21
In fact, both. I have seen fast-food chain outlets close because they were too close to another franchise of the chain, with no competitor's franchise anywhere nearby. The analogy is better than it looks.
oneofthem
8/20
Except it's a legal monopoly and a cartel.
perhaps
8/20
Parity? Having fans feel like their team can win -- fans who consequently would buy tickets to watch their team win -- sounds like a great economic rationale to me. It sure works for the NFL.
baserip4
8/20
If you're an owner, there is an incredibly convincing economic rationale for the amateur player draft.
kgoldstein
8/20
Look, we can talk about the draft, and it's purpose to evenly distribute talent, but yes, it's about controlling spending, and was invented in 1965 for that exact purpose after the early 60s bonus babies.
Joe1717
8/20
If you end the draft, then the Yankees and every other high spending team will always get the best players. That's a terrible idea. The whole point of the draft is to give the weaker teams first crack at the best available amateur players. You think the Nats would have had a chance at Harper or Stras if free market ruled?
tdrury
8/20
You're not looking at the entirety of what a no-draft MLB would look like though. The Yankees can't sign every top amateur because these guys want to play and move up and become major league regulars/stars so that they can really get paid... they won't want to take a payday now to go to an organization that's also signing another top prospect at the same position and already has a couple more in the minors blocking people. A mature college hitter doesn't want to get stuck playing 1B in low A ball because the organization can't make room for him anywhere else, he wants a quick and easy path to the big leagues more than he wants the extra dollars now.
perhaps
8/20
That's quite a lot of conjecture that cannot be substantiated. Maybe players want to play for proven winners and feel confident in themselves enough to feel that they could make it to the big leagues with them where even others could not. I don't know, and neither do you know.
tdrury
8/20
Whereas the point I was responding to ("without a draft the Yankees will sign everyone that's good") wasn't unsubtantiated conjecture in the first place?
perhaps
8/20
I think it IS substantiated historically. Why did they institute the draft in the first place? It wasn't always there. In fact, prior to the draft's existence, player development basically was the free market model: find the player, sign him. If the player was well known, there would be a bidding war, and the team with the deepest pockets wins the player. Clearly, there was a point in history where that situation was viewed to be untenable.
baserip4
8/20
If this is the case, then why doesn't every college football player accept a scholarship to USC? How come some go to Nebraska? Or Texas? Why do quarterbacks that lose out to another recruit transfer? Seems to me that they want to get a chance to play.
bcmurph07
8/20
If you followed college recruiting you would know that it does happen in college football. USC, Nebraska, Texas, etc. do get all the top recruits. Losing your job and transfering is different, that's like getting traded. But unlike college football, you don't get to choose if you get traded in the MLB.
baserip4
8/20
MLB teams currently draft more than one starting pitcher and one shortstop and three outfielders. You are not making a strong point.
baserip4
8/20
The Pirates signed this year's best Dominican arm. Ynoa went to the A's. Those darn big markets in Pittsburgh and Oakland get all the good players!
joheimburger
8/20
Sano to the Twins, Aroldis Chapman to the Reds for $30 million, and on and on and on...
biteme
8/20
I think slotting of any kind is an illegal restraint of free trade and un-American. The draft itself has resulted in more parity than there would otherwise be and the owners are lucky to get away with it. Instead, they want more. Their greed will ultimately lead the stripping of MLB's antitrust exemption and the abolishment of the draft.
briankopec
8/20
"Hard slots mean that Major League Baseball has decided to steer players away from the game, as without the ability to exceed even recommended slots, a large number, if not a majority of, high school players selected after the first two or three rounds would elect to go to college or, even worse, attend college and pursue another sport. The minor leagues would quickly be stripped of talent, and MLB would be cutting off its nose to spite its face." I'm not buying this at face value. Where is the evidence that hard-slotting the draft would hurt product on the field? The NFL moved to a 'hard' slot-based draft system without anyone suggesting that the product on the field suffered. And draft position is much more closely tied to success in the NFL than in MLB. Even if I buy the assertion that a hard-slot system will drive players away from MLB, I can't believe it would be a 'majority' of high schoolers drafted after the first couple of rounds. You have to consider: 1. How many players that get drafted have the potential to play another sport professionally? (A sizable minority, but certainly not a majority.) 2. Of that set, how many would actually give up a baseball career for another sport based on the hard slot figure? 3. What would be the hard slot figures? (Perhaps I will buy KGs assertion if he is assuming the owners would set absurdly low hard slot bonuses. But remember, this would be negotiated so I assume the bonuses would be reasonable.) I'm guessing the number of players who fit criteria #1 AND #2 above, given a reasonable figure for #3 is a handful AT MOST every year. Certainly not enough to 'strip' the minor leagues of talent. I just can't see a 'majority' of the mid-late round high school picks deferring the opportunity to get paid to play over a couple of thousand dollars. It's not like the bonuses after the first few rounds are significant anyway. Of course, I'm willing to be convinced otherwise. Show me the evidence.
perhaps
8/20
I agree -- this really was a sky-is-falling prediction from Kevin. Are these players really so mercenary that they'd drop baseball for another sport if it meant a few more million dollars? If they were, would scouts still think highly of their makeup? Would they have the requisite passion and commitment to the game to even make it to the show?
briankopec
8/20
We aren't even talking a few more million. In almost every case, we are talking a few more thousand. And even those few extra thousand dollars, in the case of high school players who want to play football, are going to be deferred.
chabels
8/20
I disagree, we are talking about a few more million. The slot (as I learned on this week's podcast) for a late-second round pick is about $500,000. A fourth round NFL pick can expect several million dollars. While there are no sure things, a $500k bonus isn't enough to convince a kid to give up college and a chance at NFL millions, while not relinquishing a chance to play baseball in the future. Put another way, perhaps the top 10-20 high school guys will keep on playing baseball (though even this isn't assured, as if you think you're going to be drafted in the NBA or NFL, you'll get a lot more money from them), but nobody else will. If you're a third round pick and an MLB team can only offer you $200k, that's not a strong enough incentive to give up an NCAA scholarship and a chance at better money elsewhere.
briankopec
8/20
There aren't enough MLB quality high school players getting drafted by the NBA (are there any?) so let's forget about the NBA for a minute. NFL 4th round picks are getting about $300k-$400k bonuses...not several million. And remember that the contracts are not guaranteed. I can't see a genuine MLB prospect giving up a couple of hundred thousand in an MLB bonus for the chance to make a little more 3 years later in the NFL.
bcmurph07
8/20
The NFL is not a hard slot system, though Goodell and the owners want it to be. The NBA is a hard-slot system for the first round, but even the last pick of the first round gets a $5 million contract with $4 million guaranteed. The point the author is trying to make is that baseball draft contracts are already well below the averages of other sports, making a hard slot system would only increase the seperation. Off the top of my head, Russell Wilson, Kyle Parker, and Zach Lee are three players in this year's draft that were playing football or had football offers. Zach Lee is probably the best example, if there was hard slotting then the dodgers wouldn't have been able to offer him 5 million and he probably would have gone to LSU. If you want examples of active players that could have ditched the MLB for football, just look at Arodd and Mauer.
bcmurph07
8/20
The NBA contract is $5 mill w/ $2 mill guaranteed, sorry that was a typo
TheRealNeal
8/23
MLB draftees do not go on to immediately star in MLB, except one in a thousand or so. Comparing rookie NFL/MLB contracts with high school signing bonuses is apples and oranges.
brownsugar
8/20
Short of letting a hard-sloting system exist and play itself out for a few years, there is no way to present hard evidence that athletes would choose other sports, but we do have a few data points. Consider the signing bonuses that some athletes have received when they have had two-sport leverage...Drew Henson (whoops!), Jeff Samardzija (whoops again!), etc. If Samardzija wasn't given $10M, he's playing wide receiver right now. You may say, so what, those two guys didn't pan out. Well, what if MLB missed out on the next Dave Winfield? Kenny Lofton? Tom Glavine? Jason Heyward, who would make a kick-ass tight end? Maybe you are right that a hard-slotting system would only push a handful of athletes to other sports, but it would be the most gifted athletes.
briankopec
8/20
You might miss out on one or two all star caliber major leaguers per generation. That is a far cry from claiming the minor leagues would be stripped of talent or that the majority of high school draftees would choose not to play baseball.
kgoldstein
8/20
You just need to look at the talent coming out of Puerto Rico before and after they became part of the draft to see that less money = less talent.
briankopec
8/20
I'm not aware of an influx of Puerto Rican talent coming into the NFL or NBA since the MLB subjected them to the draft. How awesome are the non-sports economic opportunities in Puerto Rico that prospective big leaguers are passing up the chance to play minor league baseball because their bonuses are being suppressed by the draft. I still don't see the evidence.
garethbluejays2
8/20
Hard slotting, caps on spending! American sports are allowed to operate in ways that dictators would consider draconian and that Banks would consider unfair. All sportsman should be allowed to choose where they want to play and should be paid the market rate from the moment they turn professional.
MindRevolution
8/20
Let them all be free agents. If the Reds can come up with $30 million to get Chapman I'm not buying it will mean the Yankee's sign every top talent. Also, even if the Yankee's did give Bryce Harper say $50 million, how much more are they going to spend? They aren't spending a $100 million on the draft every year. Also if teams had to offer a guy the kind of contract that gets you a decent FA, that would certainly effect team payrolls.
bcmurph07
8/20
The fact that you're relying on the yankees paying Bryce Harper $50 million in order for your argument to work shows how flawed it is. The yankees wouldn't shell out $50 mill for bryce harper, instead they'd buy the half the first round, every year. Baseball had an open market for free agents before 1965. Look at the home grown talent that the Cardinals and Yankees had before the MLB Draft and tell me how well the open market worked.
baserip4
8/20
Why don't the Yankees sign every good young talent out of the Dominican or Venezuela every year? Or even half, for that matter?
joheimburger
8/20
Because there is risk involved with signing amateur players, even more so those who are 16,17,18 years old (i.e. international players and US HS players). There is a bit more certainty in college bats, but no prospect is a guaranteed MLB All-Star. The Yankees aren't completely irrational with their discretionary capital (which is what a $100 million draft budget would probably be). This is also why the Yankees would not sign every player who wants first round money in an uncapped, amateur FA scenario. They also drafted Cito Culver in the first round of the draft this year despite the fact that several "better" talents (by industry consensus) were still available with higher price tags.
bcmurph07
8/20
Because it's cheaper and more efficient to go into the draft. Why pay one risky player $30 million when u can get 6 top prospects for $5 mill each? The benefit they get by paying guys overslot is already substantial. My problem with open market is it'll favor the big market teams and they'll get all the top prospects. My problem with slotting is that u'll lose top athletes to other sports, especially since these athletes can go back to school if they want. I like the current system, with the adjustments the author proposed, though I think rookie bonuses should be added to a team's payroll to determine their luxury tax amount.
Richie
8/20
"If you want examples of active players that could have ditched the MLB for football, just look at Arod and Mauer." Super. You name 2 examples in the last 15 years. Neither recent. "How many players that get drafted have the potential to play another sport professionally? (A sizable minority, but certainly not a majority.)" This is more accurate, except that it's a very UNsizeable minority. Jordan thought he was a baseball prospect. Yeah, right. A Bo or Deion comes around maybe once a decade. Neither of whom, even in their cases, amounted to all that much of a baseball player.
bcmurph07
8/20
I'm just thinking off the top of my head, but they happen to be two of the best players in baseball. Todd Helton is another.
bcmurph07
8/20
I agree it's a minority but if you take that minority out of baseball, it will have a huge effect. Look at what happened to boxing. A lot of the top athletes are now going into football or other sports and boxing is disappearing.
bcmurph07
8/20
Did more research: Carl Crawford, Matt Holliday, Grady Sizemore, Adam Dunn, Mark DeRosa, Jeff Samardzija, and both Upton Brothers.
briankopec
8/20
So are you asserting that the Upton's would have gone to college for the chance to enter the NFL draft 3 years hence, rather than sign for whatever #1/#2 MLB pick bonus would be under a hard-slot system? That's not believable. The only guys MLB would lose are: 1. The players who are mediocre baseball prospects but significantly better prospects in the other sports who would otherwise get paid overslot bonuses to buy them out of a college commitment to the other sport. 2. Dual sport college stars (Samardzija types) who wouldn't have to wait for their payday in the non-MLB sport and could no longer be bought out of their interest in the other sport. How many guys in the most recent draft had to be given significant overslot money in order to keep them from playing football/basketball in college? I really can't believe it is more than a handful.
bcmurph07
8/20
Steve McNair 1991 Hines Ward 1994 Brian Brohm 2004 Matt Cassel 2004 Pat White 2004, 2007, 2008, 2009 Isaiah Stanback 2006 Dennis Dixon 2007 Antwaan Randle-El Chicago Cubs 1997 Marques Tuiasosopo Minnesota Twins 1997 Vernand Morency Colorado Rockies 1998 Chad Hutchinson St. Louis Cardinals 1998 Drew Henson New York Yankees 1998 Michael Vick Colorado Rockies 2000 Ronnie Brown Seattle Mariners 2000 Roydell Williams Cincinnati Reds 2000 Mewelde Moore San Diego Padres 2000 Cedric Benson Los Angeles Dodgers 2001 Corey Dillon, Padres 1993
Richie
8/20
It's been shown that having the very first pick in the amateur draft is an enormous advantage. With a free market system, yes the Yankees would have that very first pick every single year. A free market really, really benefits those with the capital, those with money. Fine, if money floats your boat. Oh, and a free market is very, very economically efficient. In case anyone thinks I'm a commie.
baserip4
8/20
But the Yankees would also have to pay full market value, largely negating the advantage that being able to sign the best talent at an artificially low price provides.
jnossal
8/25
Bingo. You win.
garethbluejays2
8/20
The Yankees already have an arena where they could blow everyone else out of tha water - international signings. But they don't always sign the big names. Presumably, even they have a budget. More spending on young players may mean less on older ones all round and certainly fewer free agents being overpaid.
dantroy
8/20
The premise of most "The draft needs to be fixed!" articles is that the $ given out to some of the players is too high. That leads to discussions of slotting, etc. I think KG's view is more correct - the draft is intended to lower bonuses by limiting a player's negotiating leverage, and it works (See Chapman, Aroldis). Kevin's proposal is intended to remove some of the pretense from the proceedings (drawn signing periods where nobody begins negotiating until an hour before the deadline) and allow teams to trade picks if they're unwilling to pay the freight for the talent, or simply think they can gain an advantage through flexibility, etc. Makes sense to me.
BillJohnson
8/21
I don't think that's the premise at all. If there is one connected to the dollar figures, it's that the wrong teams are being put in the position of having to expend the megabucks. That isn't quite the same thing. If the Yankees or Red Sox had such a lousy season that they would be drafting in the first three slots, you can bet that they'd somehow find the resources to offer not just over-slot money but riches beyond imagination, if it resulted in getting a Strasburg or even a Harper. Suppose one of those teams had had the second choice last year. If Strasburg had wanted to join a big-name program, all he would have had to do was advertise that he was jacking up his price to stratospheric levels that Washington could not possibly afford -- but Boston or New York could. It's easy to see what happens next. Here's an idea to mitigate the craziness of last-minute signings that I haven't seen proposed; it's undoubtedly got warts, but rather than bash the idea, look for a way to remove the warts and make it look better. Teams are free to exceed slots by as much as they want to, and can announce signings whenever they occur, BUT signing a guy for grossly over slot creates a penalty in the FOLLOWING year's draft. If the aggregate of the contracts for, say, the first ten rounds exceeds the sum of the recommended slots by 50% or more, the team's position in the next year's draft drops by one notch. If it exceeds recommendations by a factor of two or more, the position drops by two notches. Something like that -- as I say, this is a pure straw man and undoubtedly could use refinement.
Richie
8/20
bcmurph, you're list isn't very enlightening without noting just where all those guys were drafted. If you're a highly-sought after college football recruit who gets 5th-round drafted in baseball and chooses baseball instead, yes that's something. If you're a 1st-round baseball draftee who accepts a college football scholarship instead, yes that's something. How many of those 'somethings' are on your lists? I'd predict darn close to zero. Players choose whatever sport they're best at. Almost none are top prospects at both. Unless you very, very creatively redesign 'top'.
thegeneral13
8/20
I see a lot of "the Yankees will sign everyone," followed by "no they won't, look at these 3 guys that signed with someone else." Of course both of those comments are missing the point. The big-market teams won't sign everyone - it's impossible - they'll simply sign more than their fair share of the available talent. They already do this via the free agent market but it would be further exaggerated by making the draft a free market as well. Our brains aren't really wired to observe when a team signs 1/20 of the top talent available vs. 1/30, which is why the conversation devolves into specific player examples, but would anyone disagree that consistently signing a disproportionate share of talent is an advantage, and that having greater financial resources in a free market provides you with that opportunity? We might disagree on the extent to which that advantage should be neutralized, but it is certainly an advantage, and one that would increase if the draft is made a free market. I personally prioritize league parity over ensuring amateurs are paid full market value, but I recognize that that's a personal preference and others might feel differently.
joheimburger
8/21
I can't imagine anyone disagreeing that it is an advantage to have greater financial resources when pursuing talent in a free market. This advantage does not guarantee success. That said, allowing teams to allocate their own capital and take risks should be the goal. Sure, the big market teams will spend more on amateur talent, but the smaller market teams will find other market inefficiencies to "exploit" if they are well-run. Be it in additional scouting where the marginal dollar may go further, new int'l talent markets, etc. Baseball isn't a perfect information world. There are too many potential signees for every team to know everything about every player. Forcing teams to pay full market value for players - domestic amateurs, international amateurs, FAs, etc - will lessen the advantage of large market teams as they do not have an endless supply of capital (despite how that seems to be an assumption of many here).
biglou115
8/22
While it's true that a lack of information would lessen the advantage of large market teams, it wouldn't eliminate it. If the Yanks sign three high risk high reward first basemen the odds are in their favor over a team that can sign one, the draft allows four teams to take equal risk with those four same players increasing the chance a team with lesser financial strength gets a good player. The only way I see a free market working is to end or limit the six years of control a team has over a young player tosimultaneoudly encourage talent to eave an organization as fast as it comes is as well as lowering payroll by increasing the supply of talented young players across the league.
Oleoay
8/21
Welcome to capitalism. There's no such thing as a fair share. The best product that consumers want, whether it's a soda or a baseball team, generates the most revenue. The Steinbrenners are not, and never were, the richest owners in baseball but they spend money to put the best product on the field. Don't complain about the Yankees, complain about the billionaires who cry out for revenue sharing.
Mountainhawk
8/22
Baseball teams aren't capitalist-style competitors. Capitalist style competitors maximize profits by driving all competitors out of business. If there is only 1 baseball team left, their profit is $0.
Oleoay
8/22
Major League Baseball as an organization is a capitalist-style competitor by driving out other professional baseball leagues. In effect, they are monopoly which is why their antitrust protection is so important to them. But even within the league, all things are not equal, nor should they be. There should be good franchises and bad franchises, winners and losers. All the league really cares about is if there's enough competition where any team can theoretically win even if most teams have little chance. Or perhaps we should be fair and base which two teams face off in the World Series by playing spin-the-bottle twice? The point I'm trying to make is that the other teams could have spent as much money as the Yankees and never did. If they had, they could also be generating similar high levels of revenue to what the Yankees get.
jake726
8/22
Do you understand the fact that all markets are not created equal? Saying that the Royals, for example, have the potential to equal the Yankees revenue is asinine. Look at the revenue streams of Tampa or Oakland a few years back as examples of the fact that even a great product does not guarantee financial success in a bad market. I'm not trying to engage in a value argument. I like the current revenue system, for the most part. But, your last paragraph is absurd and completely ignores the market size dynamics that are responsible for a significant portion of the revenue and spending differences between different organizations.
Oleoay
8/23
From 1969 to 1992 (ignoring the strike-shortened 1981), the pre-Wild Card Era, the Yankees won their division four times, and were second four times. Over that same time frame, the Royals won their division six times, and were second eight times. The Royals were pretty competitive in those days even if they were in middle (of nowhere) America. In fact, the Royals outdrew the Yankees in attendance in 1982, 1986, and 1989-1992. Yes I realize attendance is not the same thing as revenue, but it does show some indication of popularity, interest, and market size which could have been tapped. What if the Royals had started up their own version of WGN/TBS/YES Network to capitalize on that potential revenue? Why don't the Royals generate as much revenue as the Yankees? It comes down to branding, particularly global branding in an age of television and internet marketing and revenue. When you have little kids in Japan buying Yankees caps instead of Royals caps, you have a successful brand that generates revenue even if that child never ever goes to a Yankees game. Perhaps some of that is due to the Yankees mystique and "legends" such as Babe Ruth and Mickey Mantle. But some of that is because the Yankees took steps to sustain and grow that image. Another example is the Chicago Cubs, who haven't performed as well as the Royals have over the last 40 years in terms of attendance yet still manage to sell out their road games (and fan apparel) because Cubs fans are everywhere thanks to WGN and the Chicago Tribune's distribution. Look at the Mets who play in the same city as the Yankees so in theory, have access to the same revenue streams as you suggest the Yankees do, yet haven't been as successful as the Phillies and Braves who play in smaller cities. The same kind of market size inequalities were also a common cry coming out of Boston until this decade, who coined the Yankees as the "Evil Empire". I don't think they complain as much these days and are still able to compete with the Yankees... and they still generate a lot of revenue too.
tcgoldman
8/20
Good article, Kevin. I have to agree that capping spending would diminish available talent. You have to wonder whether Jackie Robinson would even play baseball nowadays? Or would he play CB for USC? NFL draftees make a lot more $ - though whether that's why they choose football over baseball, I'm not sure. Maybe it wouldn't happen in the next 5-10 years, but over the next few decades I believe it would. Kevin, maybe you could do an article about how the draft has affected Puerto Rico. When did it hit? What great PR'cans came before and after it?
tcgoldman
8/20
just checked. it began there in 1990. interesting read here (http://mlb.mlb.com/news/article.jsp?ymd=20070912&content_id=2204904&vkey=news_mlb&fext=.jsp&c_id=mlb) about how PR wanted out of the draft in '07 and blamed it for declining finances and interest in the game.
conwell
8/21
Jackie Robinson played Running Back for UCLA.
tcgoldman
8/23
fine, but you understand my point, yes?
briankopec
8/23
If your point is that baseball would have lost Jackie Robinson to football...then I think you have no point at all. The NFL was hardly integrated in the 1940's. See here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Black_players_in_American_professional_football And baseball was hardly lucrative in the 1940's, especially for black players. I don't think I need to link to a reference to support that statement. I'd really love a full length article examining (not conjecturing) how much talent, if any, MLB would lose if it went to a hard-slot system. Maybe someone could explain how the draft has impacted talent coming out of Puerto Rico. I would love to see causation, not just correlation. I am not in favor of a hard slotting system. There are MANY good reasons why MLB should not implement such a system. I just don't think this is one of them and it is really watering down the argument. I've posted enough I guess. Don't want to keep banging this drum.
Oleoay
8/23
"You have to wonder whether Jackie Robinson would even play baseball nowadays?" I think by using the word "nowadays", he's saying if baseball wasn't integrated these days, that African-Americans would have even less incentive to play baseball today. Even then, though baseball is integrated today, top African American athletes often go to other sports instead of baseball (though that also happens with Caucasians and other ethnicities as well).
ofMontreal
8/20
Hi KG. Good article again. But speaking of 'fixing' the draft, I'm surprised you haven't written anything about Loux being given FA status. I'd be interested in your anticipatory take on what will happen. I assume you think the right thing happened.
schmub
8/20
Any chance the bind that the late deadline puts college coaches in so much as registers for Selig and the rest of MLB?
kgoldstein
8/21
College baseball is the least of their concerns.
Oleoay
8/21
I agree with the article though the concern I have about trading draft picks is I can see some franchises trading draft picks for cash, then pocketing the cash.
kgoldstein
8/21
It's possible that we'd need some controls put into place for it, certainly.
sempris
8/21
Does anybody have a theory about what would happen to the international signing rules, including the crazy July 2 deadline?
sempris
8/21
By the way, I hope College start using either wood bats or some sort of non-aluminum bad. This will help scouts tons
jillsinmo
8/21
Turning the amateur talent pool into a free market system would allow these kids to be compensated more according to their talents, but it removes one of the advantages that smaller market teams have. I can't imagine MLB would want to give up the only advantage that smaller market teams have in this way, you would be making the game completely free and a game of resource allocation, which sounds alright until you realize that every team is generally smart enough to use the capital it has available to good effect, leaving us with a system where those with significantly more money reap the rewards at the expense of the less fortunate teams. While its fair, I would contend that it certainly doesn't make for a more entertaining product and thus would probably be bad for baseball on the whole. The small teams have to have some even playing field or advantage somewhere or they become very uninteresting very quickly unless they get lucky on some small signings. The main issue I see here is why anyone would bring this up in the first place. The MLBPA wouldn't want this because it drives the total pool of money available for current members down, and MLB wouldn't want this because it hurts competitive balance. If the draft changes at all during the bargaining agreement I'll be shocked.
jake726
8/22
I agree with most of the proposals in the original article minus the elimination of soft slotting. Soft slots are a brilliant tactic for subtly driving down bonuses at the margin and there is no reason for MLB to abandon them. Basically, through soft slotting, MLB gets first say and gets to suggest how much draft positions are worth. If they do this well, they should be setting those values at just below where they think an unslotted draft would value those picks. If a player wants $600,000 but is drafted at a $550,000 slot, it's pretty likely that they will rapidly accept their slot offer rather than negotiating and holding out for a small marginal gain. Obviously, this has no impact if a player's perception of their value and their slot are radically different. But, a good system of soft slotting allows MLB to set the starting point for negotiating, which is a valuable ability. I am fully on board with the fears of hard slotting driving talent away from the game and would be pretty frustrated with ownership if they make such a short-sighted move.
krissbeth
8/23
This is about the players' lives and their livelihoods much more than about competition or parity. Granted that these negotiations are about the naked exercise of power, but the idea that I should be rooting for high school students to get more jobbed by their occupational choice is not a compelling one. I hope at the end of the day that drafted players end up with more money. The fact that they are not allowed at the bargaining table between the union and the owners is a bad sign. Thank god at least some of them have Scott Boras. Let me put it this way: would you think it fair if a billionaire told you to take a cut in your salary because it would make selling insurance more entertaining? If not, perhaps you can understand why parents of potential players might look at appeals to parity at the expense of their child's future as being more than a little exploitative.