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The draft: is a hard slotting system around the corner?

Aug 10, 2009, 10:40 AM EDT

The KC Star’s Sam Mellinger has a post up today about the broken system of compensating draft picks in both football and baseball.  You’ve heard most of the arguments and examples before, but this part is worth remembering:

Both sports are approaching the end of their current collective bargaining agreements. This is scheduled to be the final NFL season with a salary cap, and there are significant rumblings on each side about a potential work stoppage.

Baseball’s CBA is scheduled to end after the 2011 season. Many baseball insiders on both sides of the negotiation say the players are willing to institute some sort of slotting system for draft picks, but need to get something back from owners in return.

It won’t take much in return, I’d wager.  Most people don’t realize this, but draftees aren’t union members — you don’t become eligible to join the union until you’re on a 40-man roster — yet the members have the power to negotiate the terms of the draft.  As such, giving the owners a hard slotting system doesn’t truly take anything off the union’s plate.

Sure, they don’t want to be seen as laying down to ownership so they’ll demand something in return, but make no mistake: current players aren’t fans of rapidly-escalating amateur signing bonuses, and the sorts of things they’ll likely take from ownership in exchange for a hard slotting system fall on the “better lunch meat on the postgame spread” end of the spectrum than on the end where things of real value reside.  It’s certainly not work-stoppage material.

  1. Richie - Aug 10, 2009 at 1:22 PM

    I can’t remember the details right now, but Keith Law thinks very strongly that hard slotting is never going to happen. Here’s an excerpt from one of his chats:
    The union would sign off on hard slotting in exchange for other major concessions, but I wonder if that would just lead to an antitrust lawsuit (or challenge of the exemption).

  2. Richie - Aug 10, 2009 at 1:26 PM

    Here’s Keith again in another chat. Keith here says that MLB has always half-heartedly pushed for hard slotting because they know it would end in a lawsuit.
    I hear you’re some sort of lawyer, Craig. How do you envision this scenario playing out?

  3. Craig Calcaterra - Aug 10, 2009 at 1:46 PM

    I’ve seen that reasoning before, Richie — and I’ll admit that I’m no antitrust expert — but what’s stopping them from challenging the draft as it currently stands? I mean, sure, a hard cap could end in a lawsuit, but why aren’t there already lawsuits?

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