When the dust settled on Monday and the MLB amateur draft signing deadline had passed, every Major League team had blown the slot system with at least one pick. For rich teams — the Yankees come to mind — the slot signings might as well have not existed. After all, the team signed their first-round pick for $2.2 million — or 100 percent over slot — and spent $7 million on the draft.
In a way, the 2009 draft and the subsequent bonuses are going to represent the end of an era. For the last few years, as Japanese players enjoy record signings and international free agents take home millions of dollars at age 16, both the players and owners have expressed a desire to reshape the draft process. While an international draft may not be as close to reality as many baseball analysts would prefer, a draft overhaul will be a centerpiece of the 2011 labor negotiations.
In The Times today, David Waldstein jumps into the draft fray. The owners, he reports, will seek an NBA-style mandatory slotting system when the collective bargaining negotiations next roll around. He reports:
Since 2002, baseball has made recommendations to teams as a guideline to follow, but that system could be on its way out. When the current collective bargaining agreement runs out in 2011, it is expected that baseball will seek a mandatory signing system for draft picks similar to the one used by the N.B.A…
In the N.B.A., each draft position is assigned a salary figure. It can be negotiated 20 percent above or below that figure, but is now almost always 20 percent above. In the N.F.L., there is a rookie salary pool, and each team can divide up the money however it wishes, as long as it does not exceed the total.
The N.B.A. model, in place since 1995, is the most appealing because it eliminates negotiating and controls costs. Therefore, teams are not afraid to take the best available player for fear they will not be able to sign him. “Theoretically, a fixed price for each pick in the draft is a mechanism that helps restore the draft to its original purpose,” Manfred said. “Teams know what the cost of the talent is, and they just take the best player.”
In other words, those concerns over signability go right out the window, and the top players selected are going to be the best regardless of money.
For the article, Waldstein chatted with Baseball America’s Jim Callis about the reform efforts. Callis notes that the players are not expected to push back too hard on the owner’s efforts at draft reform.
From a practical perspective, I endorse a mandatory slotting system. By all accounts, the Yankees could have signed many of their draft picks in late June or early July. They were prevented from announcing the deals, however, because baseball did not want the Yankees to blow slot so early in the process. Instead of giving Slade Heathcott and other top draftees a chance to get six weeks’ play at Staten Island or in the Gulf Coast League, the Yankees were forced to sit on their hands as other deals fell into place. Reform, in other words, will benefit everyone.
Feel free to use this as your open thread tonight. Ostensibly, the topic is draft reform, but anything goes. The Red Sox and Blue Jays are on ESPN, and we’ll be back at 9:30 with the game thread.