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Draft pick slotting isn't going to happen

Aug 18, 2010, 11:35 AM EDT

As is almost always the case following the draft and its attendant August signing deadline, the calls are going out for a hard slotting system in which draft picks are paid a set price based on where they’re taken. No haggling! Just like buying a Saturn!

While there may be some merit to the idea on an intellectual basis — Maury discusses some of the pros and cons here — almost every article I’ve seen on the matter ignores how difficult it will be to impose such a system. Why will it be difficult? Because contrary to the popular belief that the union would willingly toss non-member draftees over the side if they got something in return, the MLBPA has given every indication that they would fight draft slotting tooth and nail.

Case in point: union chief Michael Weiner referred to the idea of hard slotting as “a salary cap”
last December. That’s the first time I can ever recall someone using that term in connection with the draft. It’s a term that, as you know, is a rallying cry for the union. They are opposed to such caps in all cases, and if they’re referring to the draft slotting as a “salary cap,” they will be philosophically obligated to oppose it. I don’t think the choice of words is an accident.

The owners know this,
and they have publicly abandoned any effort to impose a general salary cap because they
know the union will gladly strike over it and will likely win. Again. And let’s be clear here: the stakes are way lower on draft bonuses for the owners than regular player salaries are, with most teams paying bonuses of less than $10 million for their entire draft in a given year. Do you think owners would risk a work stoppage to save less money than Jose Guillen makes?

People are underestimating ust how hard the union is prepared to
fight on this point.  I think it’s just something people are talking about now and that we’re highly unlikely to see slotting imposed anytime soon.

  1. ThinMan - Aug 18, 2010 at 11:51 AM

    Hard slotting for draft picks is like the current hue and cry to modify the 14th Amendment. It’s never going to happen, but that doesn’t mean there isn’t currency to be gained from talking about it.

  2. Old Gator - Aug 18, 2010 at 12:39 PM

    Who is that in the photo? Looks like a young Bud Selig. Horrible.

  3. Loren - Aug 18, 2010 at 12:49 PM

    It would also make it almost impossible to draft HS kids who are considered “tough signs” under today’s system. Third or fourth round slot money would never be enough to lure the player away from college, but the team can’t risk a first round pick on someone who might just go to college anyway. It’s hard to see teams willingly giving up the chance to sign so many high profile prospects.

  4. The Dangerous Mabry - Aug 18, 2010 at 2:35 PM

    Someone correct me if I’m wrong, but wouldn’t a hard-slotting system put MLB at a disadvantage when attempting to sign multi-sport athletes? A player given the choice between a specified dollar amount in MLB based on their draft position (which will necessarily be pretty low; otherwise this discussion wouldn’t take place) or a substantially more lucrative offer from the NFL or NBA is probably going to choose the other sports every time. And losing talent to other sports has to be a bad thing for MLB overall.

  5. pwt3d - Aug 18, 2010 at 3:23 PM

    @the dangerous mabry…How many would this actually be an issue for? 2 or 3 high school kids that have full football scholarships and the 1 or 2 that play both in college, which is pretty rare. Kyle Parker is a star in both sports, Russell Wilson, wasn’t drafted high in baseball and probably won’t be drafted high in football. It’s really a non-issue as far as pro football vs. pro baseball. If anything you’ll see the talent level in ncaa baseball go up because kids who are drafted late certainly will want to go and improve their stock. You’re also wrong about the NBA, (though I cannot think of any recent baseball players that this effected, Mark Henderickson of the Orioles maybe who played in the NBA for a couple of years before he decided to go baseball perhaps?) The NBA has a slotted system and the teams have the option to pay their draft picks anywhere between 80-120% of the slot. Most teams elect to play the 120%. Baseball could definitely do something like that but I don’t think they will because over paying kids in the draft is the only way low and mid market teams can compete with the Yankees, Mets, Red Sox and Cubs. Look at the Indians, they give a guy like Travis Hafner a $12 million/yr extention after a career year, he ends up hurt, now he has 2 years left at that rate and they’re essentially stuck with him; but in the draft they take 3 guys, Drew Pomeranz at #5, LaVon Washington in the 2nd round who was a !st round pick last year but didn’t sign, Tony Wolters in the 3rd round, a kid who fell because of his apparent contract demands holding a full ride to college and Alex Lavisky who fell to them in the 8th round for the same reason. They spent a total of just under $10 million to sign those 4 guys plus 23 other players. If they all come close to what they are projected to be and around the same time, the Indians have a couple of good years with a solid core before they won’t be able to afford the kids and they’ve done a good job in the past buying players arbitration years, it just has come back to bite them. Grady Sizemore has two more years at $7.5 million on his contract, before he was injured this year he was a gold glove/allstar centerfielder, that’s a huge bargin if he can come back and be his oldself. Even a guy like Johnny Peralta who at 24 was a .285/25/85 guy at shortsop, but that has been his best season so far. By slotting in the draft, small market teams cannot draft aggressively and over pay guys to have their few years of contention and you will see the large market teams dominate.

  6. RichardInBigD - Aug 18, 2010 at 3:57 PM

    Chris Young (pitcher) played both baseball and basketball at Princeton, and was drafted in both.

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