If you ask Bud Selig, and people do, he’ll tell you that Major League Baseball’s draft needs to set hard levels for maximum signing bonuses based on what selection a player is drafted with.

I believe in slotting and I believe in a worldwide draft. I think it’s important. I think the draft has worked, but I think there are some things that have happened in the last five or six years that are worrisome.

The worrisome element that Selig speaks of is watching MLB’s competitive balance shift due to only richer teams being able to afford the signing bonuses of the best players. The worrisome element that Selig really means is the increased negotiation rights that incoming players have over MLB owners.

There remain two obstacles in the way of me ever supporting the idea of a hard slot for Rule IV draftees: 1) Baseball is more competitive than ever; and 2) Signing bonuses for incoming players continue to represent one of baseball’s biggest bargains.

The only thing that Bud Selig wants more than the game of baseball to thrive is for the owners of MLB teams to be pleased with him while it thrives. You know what MLB owners aren’t currently pleased with? Having to pay seventeen year olds millions of dollars to sign with their team. He’ll use the excuse of competitive balance, but that has nothing to do with his motivation to set caps on signing bonuses. Baseball is enjoying a time of spectacular balance, and teams are using the draft to get better. Look at the Tampa Bay Rays or future Kansas City Royals.

Yesterday, we compared the amount of money that the Toronto Blue Jays will spend at the draft to what the Detroit Tigers, a team constantly crying poor, paid for the services of Joaquin Benoit, a not particularly dominant middle reliever coming off a good season. The $16.5 million that the Tigers invested in Benoit barely caused an eye lash to be batted, yet if that number of dollars was spent on draft picks, it would set team records for the most money spent. Historically, guess which investment would prove more valuable to its team? It’s money spent on draft picks, not middle relievers.

Aside from any philosophical beliefs that you or I might have about the free market, it’s actually more beneficial for teams to spend money on the draft than it is to pour it down the free agent market toilet bowl. What’s happened is that owners have given up attempting to sway the MLB players union into accepting a salary cap, or god forbid, a cap on free agent signings, and so they’ve instead focused their attention on implementing it for those who haven’t yet joined the union.

It’s all a gigantic misconception that they’ve created. If teams wanted to, they could easily shuffle their budgets so as to increase the amount of money they have to spend at the draft simply by not overpaying for free agent middle relievers and their like. However, it seems easier for the teams to simply cry afoul over richer teams being able to spend more than they can. The reality of the situation is that the so called hard done by teams need to shift their focus, not set more restrictions.

And The Rest

My favourite story from yesterday: tracking down photographers from the most amazing Willy Mays catch ever. Look at how deep in the park Mays came up with that ball.

Getting Blanked celebrated its 1000th post yesterday.

He’s back! Vernon Wells came off the DL for the Los Angeles Angels and proceeded to go zero for three with a strike out. AL pitchers are glad to have him back.

Jose Bautista is fending off the advances of Robinson Cano in the race for the most All-Star votes, while Brian McCann has passed Buster Posey and the race for starting first baseman heats up in the NL All-Star balloting.

From our friend North York Jays, think about this for a moment, the Toronto Blue Jays have scored more runs than any other team in the American League. I had to double check that too.

The Oakland A’s have put starting pitcher Bret Anderson on the Disabled List, despite not knowing exactly what’s wrong with his arm. The Athletics ace has an appointment with Dr. James Andrews.

Meanwhile, prospect Jemile Weeks made his debut for the A’s last night.

Trevor Gretzky, son of some famous boots with knives guy, was drafted by the Chicago Cubs yesterday. The likelihood of him signing or going to San Diego State is unknown.

The Tampa Bay Rays owner talks about sustaining the team with current attendance levels.

Denard Span is feeling dizzy after a collision at home plate. This is just what the Minnesota Twins really needed right now.

It’s such a shame that in one quick bat flip, David Ortiz may have lost all of the friends he made in New York.

Bonus video: Detroit Tigers closer Jose Valverde talks about being Jose Valverde.

Comments (18)

  1. Fuck that little tidbit on the Jays run scoring this year is annoying.
    This seems to be an on going issue for the last 6-7 years.
    They alternate between being a good hitting team and near the bottom of pitching 1 year, and then being near the top of all pitching categories 1 year and being unable to hit.

  2. jays pitchers are also leading the AL in K’s.. 5th worst in runs allowed though.. if anything it shows that we’ve got some promise and some loose ends, which we already knew

  3. “it’s actually more beneficial for teams to spend money on the draft than it is to pour it down the free agent market toilet bowl.”

    Proof?

    Or is this a “draft bad-bodied, high-OBP guys” kind of statement – ie. it is precisely premised on yours or my belief in some kind of ‘free-market’ in baseball?

  4. did you just actually ask for proof of why you should not spend 16 million on a middle reliever compared to high end prospects?

    Thats like asking for proof that Stoeten doesn’t shave, its common fuckin knowledge

  5. so you live in a world in which all FA contracts are as bad as Benoit’s and all draft picks end up being superstars?

    it’s one thing to be a supercilious prick, it’s quite another to be a moron on top of it.

  6. Arithmetic: $16 million dollars on one guy, for two or three years, who isn’t even a starting pitcher, let alone an elite player.

    vs.

    $16 million on a dozen or more players, the top tier of whom are among the roughly 100 best players of their cohort, as a price to get them in your system, after which you have contractual control over them for as long as they’re in the minor league system, and after that, for as long as they’re arbitration-eligible. (Side note — it shouldn’t be amazing that a huge number of elite MLB players were drafted really high. It shouldn’t be, but apparently it is to some).

    Nobody would ever claim every FA contract is bad, nor would anyone ever claim every draft pick ends up a superstar. But if the choice is to spend the about same amount of money on ONE non-elite free agent, vs. on ALL your draft picks in a year, hoping that more than one of them might develop into an elite MLB player, I know which I’d choose.

    You could do both, of course. Doesn’t make spending the $16 million on a relief pitcher any smarter of a decision.

  7. Is the $16M only bonuses? Factor in salaries (microscopic during the minors, but significant during bought out arbitration years) and how many of those will actually become as good as Benoit and THEN compare that to three years of known quantity Benoit.

    There is a point to be made here, but Parkes and mike from ottawa overstate it.

  8. The point remains that the complaints over the cost of drafted players signing bonuses pales in comparison to free agent acquisitions. Both have risks too. And middle relievers should pretty much never, ever be signed to multiple year contracts.

  9. Agreed, Darnell… but to further Parkes’ point, even a known quantity gets older and less effective, as the Detroit Tigers are discovering. Also, when you split the money among a dozen or so draft picks, the risk is spread out too.

  10. leading the league in runs?? thats pretty good considering the dead weights like EE, rivera, nix, hill, etc. they’ve been carrying around. solid performances from escobar, bautista, lind, and arencibia, and surprising performances by molina and patterson (obviously unsustainable). a lawrie promotion could make them that much more potent.

    compared to last year this team has obviously lost some HR power, but they are much better balanced as a result. their OBP has risen (3rd most walks in the AL??) and their newfound speed and aggression on the basepaths has benefited them more than it has hurt them IMO.

  11. mike from ottawa,

    the issue isn’t benoit’s contract, or juan pierre or barry zito’s contract, the issue i raised was pretty clear:
    “it’s actually more beneficial for teams to spend money on the draft than it is to pour it down the free agent market toilet bowl.”
    to me, the “free agent market toilet bowl” includes BOTH the benoits AND the AGonz of the world. You can’t just pick and choose “bad” free agents to prove your example and then use the hypothetical ace produced out of this draft crop as the ‘proof’.

    JP’s draft strategy worked because it didn’t take risks. if in 7 years NONE of the guys drafted in the last 3 days make it to the big jays, i wouldn’t be shocked.

    parkes is statement is unsubstantiated, and it amounts to nothing more than rhetorical justification for AA’s latest moves – at least in my books.

    i’m not even saying you guys are wrong, i’m just saying that you should show me the WAR/$ for FA vs. Draft picks. I don’t assume it is that obvious.

  12. parkes is = parkes’

  13. yt, it’s a valid to say that I haven’t proven anything because I haven’t. I’m merely saying that I would wager that dollars spent on signing bonuses have created higher WAR than free agent signings. Overall.

    I’ll add up a three year range later this week for comparison. If you wanted to go further you could include trades as well, like for the AGonz that you mention. Red Sox trade prospects that they paid over slot for to get Gonzalez, just like Yanks did with Austin Jackson to get Granderson. Draft signings cover best of both worlds. Where FAs are usually signed in a declining state and don’t have nearly the flexibility while also far exceeding cost of signing draft picks. Big difference is delaying the return on investment.

  14. i agree it would be a mess to untangle everything, which is why i asked what you based it on. i am interested in how head offices make those calculations which are obviously (and rightly) guarded secrets. but if you don’t have it on-hand, don’t worry about it.

    to me it is just as interesting to think about how you would backwards engineer those calculations as it would be to actually do them. there are lots of ‘intangibles’ involved as well – including things like the BoSox’ signing of the big names in the offseason meant the Yankees did not. The value of that is still being written, of course.

    i thought the point of this thread was how horrible a hard-slot is, anyway – which to quote Stan’s dad: “i thought this was america!?!”

  15. yt,

    Fair enough. Parkes was using the Benoit contract as one example of $16 million that could be better spent on the draft (you may not agree). And as I said, nobody would assume every free agent siging is a bad one. There are risks with draft signings just as there are risks with free agent signings. I’m a fan of spreading that risk around to a whole bunch of players, many of whom have very big upside. That’s not to say I’m against ever signing free agents. I just believe sustainable success starts in the draft, and spending appropriately on the draft to keep a elite prospects in your system.

  16. @yt, do you require proof that the earth is round too? Yes your right Parkes did not present a table to prove his point and he picked a particularly bad free agent deal to do so and not all prospects reach the bigs like you said, but even when you look at elite FA’s like jayson werth, do you really need a table to prove he’s not going to put up as much WAR in his 30′s as a successful upper tier draft pick in his 20′s?

  17. mike from ottawa,

    i’m not even sure why i got sucked into a discussion on the topic. i actually think, and thought at the time, that the benoit signing was pretty stupid. but i had no idea who albequrque was until the tigers were in town a few weeks back, so i understood the desire to add relief depth.

    i would also credit a lot of the jays’ middle relief depth to the JP years. i don’t find it inconcievable that the high-ceiling/high-risk strategy might create a gap in middle relief if these guys break down or flame out. i don’t know enough about DET to say that’s what they’ve done, but Porcello and Verlander stick out as high school arms they took, and I can’t really think of who else they’ve taken that were really hyped and ended up panning out.

    anyway, i’m getting trolled by the modern-day magellan so i’m off to do better things with my time.

  18. @ yt

    Come back here! I’m not done disagreeing with you yet!

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