Thursday, October 27, 2011

Thinking Outside the Box: Draft Slots

I've got just a little bit of time here to throw out an idea I just had. I haven't worked out the details and I am sure there will be holes in the proposal I am about to present. That is just a fair warning.

Rumor is that the final sticking point in the new CBA for professional baseball is addition for a hard slotting system in the Major League Baseball draft. Word on the street is that Bud Selig views this and playoff expansion as a legacy thing. (Good for him trying to fool himself, I think we all know his defining moment was when he allowed the All Star Game to end in a tie.)

Selig wants to implement a hard slotting system in order to improve competitive balance in baseball. My only question is this: has the commissioner been paying any attention to the draft the last several seasons?

Because teams like the Pirates and Royals have overspent on the draft they actually have hope for the future. Sure they are spending a bit more on their first round picks than they probably would like, but there is absolutely no way their farm systems would be as beefy without the late round additions of players like Wil Myers, Chris Dwyer, Jason Adam, Bryan Brickhouse, Jack Lopez, etc.

Right now the Royals in particular have high hopes for the future and make no mistake about it, these high hopes are a direct result of their ability and willingness to overspend on the draft sine Dayton Moore's arrival in Kansas City. If baseball takes away the Royals ability to do this, they will be forced to find a new competitive advantage, and quite frankly in today's baseball world these are nearly impossible to find.

But even if we consider baseball's well being as a whole, as opposed to just our hometown team, how can this be a good thing? A slotting system means great prospects like Wil Myers, or Bubba Starling don't even sign. Instead they go to South Carolina for school and baseball, or to Nebraska to be a football star. Baseball starts losing out on part of its talent stream. A hard slot isn't helping the game.

So what do I suggest? Well I have a couple of ideas. First, what about instead of a slotting system, baseball implements a draft signing bonus cap for each team by in inverse order to the standings. Not only would this allow teams to maintain a competitive advantage, but it would also prevent teams like the Yankees and Red Sox from stealing this advantage away from small market teams as well.

The Red Sox are already overspending on the draft, and it is only a matter of team before other big market teams flex their financial muslces as well. At some point the Royals will at the least see this advantage shrink. In fact we are already seeing it. Less guys are falling due to signability.

With a cap on spending teams that are struggling could have the option of spending more on the draft than the big teams, and for once actually have a distinct financial advantage. Wouldn't that be a fun change?

My second suggestion that isn't nearly as original as I believe the first suggestion was, is implement a hard slot for the first round and then pick caps for each subsequent rounds. Enable teams to continue to sign guys for up to $1.5 millions in rounds 1-5. Allow up to $1 million in bonus for rounds 6-15, then up to $500K in 16-50.

You are still enabling teams to go overslot, but you are preventing the outrageoues contracts that happen in the first round. The bonus here is that teams could actually have more money for overslot spending than normal thanks to money saved on their previously high dollar picks. More guys could actually be bought out of scholarships, thus increasing the talent stream for baseball.

I am strongly against a hard slotting system for Major League Baseball. It isn't good for the Royals and it isn't good for the game. But I wouldn't mind seeing a creative solution to bridge the gap between the current system and the proposed hard slot system.

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