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Selig seeks slotting; international draft

Jun 7, 2011, 10:30 AM EDT

Selig and Weiner

We’ve seen this coming for a couple of years now, but on the occasion of the 2011 draft, Bud Selig once again called for the hard slotting of draft picks and the extension of the draft to cover other countries:

“I believe in slotting and I believe in a worldwide draft. I think it’s important,” Selig said, pointing out that the draft began in 1965 as a way to improve competitive balance. “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.”

Worth noting that competitive balance is leaps and bounds better now than it was at the time the draft was implemented. And that, at present, people are writing articles all over the place about how much parity is in baseball. Then again, reality has never been a terribly tall hurdle for those engaging in public relations campaigns.

The NBA currently has a rookie pay scale and NFL owners would like to implement one as well. New players entering the NHL are subject to maximum salaries.

And based on how those leagues are going, the NBA and NFL should clearly be emulated when it comes to labor relations.

Selig said owners and general managers have voted in favor of a slotting system. Now, it’s a matter of getting players to agree.

Shocking: Selig has offered a proposal that will dramatically decrease players’ negotiation rights and wages and the other owners have agreed to it. Well, I guess we’re halfway there …

Look, I’ve said it many times and I’ll say it again: I hate the slot — and actually, I’m not terribly keen on the draft — because I think that a person should be able to shop their labor as they see fit and a business should be allowed to decide what — or if — it wants to pay for said labor.  Of course that’s a philosophical point, not a practical point. We know the draft isn’t going anywhere even if kooks like me talk about it being unfair.

But there’s a practical point to be remembered as well: In 2009 — in his introductory press conference after taking over for Donald Feher — Union head Michael Weiner referred to the idea of hard slotting as “a salary cap”.  The term “salary cap” is a rallying cry for the union. It always has been. The owners know this, and they have publicly abandoned any effort to impose one because they know the union will gladly strike over it and will likely win.

Maybe it’s different for the draft — players have often thrown draftees and minor leaguers under the bus when it comes to work rules — but I don’t think enough people have taken notice of Weiner’s use of that term. For that reason, I think they people are underselling  just how hard the union might fight the imposition of hard slotting for the draft. It may happen, but it will come at a higher price than the owners suspect, I think.

  1. halladaysbicepts - Jun 7, 2011 at 10:38 AM

    In the picture, the goofy looking guy on the right looks like he trying to perform some Jedi mind trick on Selig. However, Selig, on the left, seems to be using a Karate chop-like defense.

    Some of the craziest looking pics I have ever seen are on this site.

  2. easports82 - Jun 7, 2011 at 10:46 AM

    I don’t really have a problem with the idea of slotting. I’m not a big fan of players coming out of high school/college (though it’s only the top picks) and getting signed for deals that average veterans will never see. However, the owners would have to give up a year or two of team control over the players. So, you reduce the rookie salary without harming long-term earning potential by letting them hit free agency earlier.

    Gives teams the ability to actually sign top draft picks and reduce the re-entry to amateur ranks because they didn’t get 7 figures out of college. And the good players will still be rewarded with the large contracts that teams can now offer because they aren’t paying a draft pick.

    • uberfatty - Jun 7, 2011 at 12:15 PM

      Do you also agree that graduates of top law schools should have a salary cap at their initial employment after graduating? Why stop an individual that possesses a skill from receiving compensation for that skill? As Craig noted, it doen’t really affect competitive balance, and right now the smart teams are the ones that are paying enough money to draft te top talent available.

      What should happen assuming slotting passes, though, is the ability to trade draft picks. This way if a team like the Pirates doesn’t want to pay money for the top talent, they can move down in the draft to a spot more in line with their budget, and be fairly compensated for having a top pick. Plus, half the fun of the NFL draft is coming up with awesome trades in the leadup to the draft. If slotting happens, this needs to happen as well.

      • uberfatty - Jun 7, 2011 at 12:21 PM

        One other point I forgot to mention. MLB should want the best athletes to choose baseball over the other sports. I’m not sure how reducing the compensation of top draftees does anything but the opposite. Would you rather a player like Bubba Starling or Archie Bradley go to Nebraska/Olahoma to play football, becuase that is significantly more likely to happen with slotting.

        Finally, “Gives teams the ability to actually sign top draft picks and reduce the re-entry to amateur ranks because they didn’t get 7 figures out of college”…how does decreasing potential salary to draftees also reduce re-entry? Because they might get to free agency in 6 years (4 yrs service time + 2 after draft to get there) instead of 8? Not likely in my view.

      • easports82 - Jun 7, 2011 at 2:00 PM

        “graduates of top law schools should have a salary cap”
        — That’s a false comparison; graduates have a much larger market to compete against which keeps starting salaries lower than a rookie’s in pro sports. Who’s the Yankees or Red Sox of the law world that’s overpaying for mid-level employees?

        “it doen’t really affect competitive balance… smart teams are the ones that are paying enough money to draft te top talent available.”
        — So the Nationals were smart to pay Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg nearly $25 million instead of investing in players on the field? One is having maturation problems in the minors and the other loses a year because of Tommy John. I’d argue they are not able to compete for free agents with that kind of cash tied up.

        “MLB should want the best athletes to choose baseball over the other sports”
        — Players looking for the quick buck go for baseball anyways because
        1) they can get paid faster (no college requirements)
        2) guaranteed contracts
        But those aren’t really the players MLB should be worried about. MLB should try to maintain the best product on the field, which are players willing to put in the time and effort to become world-class at their sport and not looking for a signing bonus.

        “how does decreasing potential salary to draftees also reduce re-entry?”
        — If the salaries for rookies are set and a guy gets drafted number 1 by, say the Pirates who aren’t willing going to fork-over $10 mil for unproven talent, he absolutely can re-enter the following year, but it won’t be because he couldn’t buy a Porche with a quadraphonic Blaupunkt with the signing bonus.

        My point is that the draft should be about getting the best talent to the worst teams to to try and allow them to improve. MLB players, like anyone else who has a 9-5 job, should have to put in time and perform to get paid. I do totally agree with you about allowing the trading of draft picks.

      • dparker713 - Jun 7, 2011 at 3:39 PM

        “So the Nationals were smart to pay Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg nearly $25 million instead of investing in players on the field? One is having maturation problems in the minors and the other loses a year because of Tommy John. I’d argue they are not able to compete for free agents with that kind of cash tied up.”

        Yeah, all that cash they tied up prevented them from offering Jayson Werth and 8th year.

      • easports82 - Jun 7, 2011 at 4:09 PM

        Wasn’t implying that there wouldn’t be stupid FA signings, but if the Nationals had been limited to spending 10% of that on Strasburg and Harper, there’s another 22.5 mil that could be invested in a better on-field product… or they could’ve given Werth a 9th year.

      • uberfatty - Jun 7, 2011 at 5:47 PM

        “That’s a false comparison; graduates have a much larger market to compete against which keeps starting salaries lower than a rookie’s in pro sports. Who’s the Yankees or Red Sox of the law world that’s overpaying for mid-level employees?”
        – In the draft, lots of teams are (smartly) choosing to pay over slot to draft potential stars. Remember, we’re not talking about free agency here, only the draft.

        ” So the Nationals were smart to pay Bryce Harper and Stephen Strasburg nearly $25 million instead of investing in players on the field? One is having maturation problems in the minors and the other loses a year because of Tommy John. I’d argue they are not able to compete for free agents with that kind of cash tied up.”
        – YES, and any of the other 29 teams would have done the exact same thing. Part of “putting the best team on the field” involves drafting the best players available and grooming them to be stars.

        “MLB should try to maintain the best product on the field, which are players willing to put in the time and effort to become world-class at their sport and not looking for a signing bonus.”
        – Are those two things mutually exclusive? Using your logic here, wouldn’t a money grubbnig signing bonus seeking player really want to improve as much as possible, in order to maximize future earnings as well? There will always be the monetary incentive for players to be the best that they can be, so this point is irrelevant.

        “If the salaries for rookies are set and a guy gets drafted number 1 by, say the Pirates who aren’t willing going to fork-over $10 mil for unproven talent, he absolutely can re-enter the following year, but it won’t be because he couldn’t buy a Porche with a quadraphonic Blaupunkt with the signing bonus.”
        – Name a few players who have been drafted #1 overall to not sign purely for monetary reasons. Heck, make that Top 10. There is no epidemic of re-entry for top picks.

        “My point is that the draft should be about getting the best talent to the worst teams to to try and allow them to improve.”
        – I agree, except for the fact that this is possible right now under the current system. The worst teams pick first, and they have the option of taking whomever they want with their pick. Slotting hurts the top players by artifically depressing their salary. Also, your statement makes it sound like with slotting teams will magically be able to determine the best player available and pick that player, when in reality that will never be the case.

      • easports82 - Jun 7, 2011 at 6:41 PM

        1) The whole reason slotting comes up is because teams are forced to pay over slot for players that haven’t performed and (in most cases) don’t meet the contract value. People don’t come out of school and get paid premium salaries because they got straight As. They have to perform and earn the salary over time.

        2) The other 29 teams wouldn’t have because they don’t all have the cash to do it. Think the Royals are ponying that up? How about the Marlins? Or the Twins?

        3) They’re not mutually exclusive, however, giving 18-22 year old’s 7 figure salaries tends to spoil them pretty quickly unless they have a straight head.

        4) #1’s don’t go back because there isn’t anyway they can improve their stock. Look at the other 29 1st round picks who think there’s more cash waiting for them by improving their selection.

        5) Of course there’s no magic algorithm which concretely selects the best player in a draft. The actual draft results don’t pan out for years. By adding in slotting, you take away ridiculous signing bonuses as the reason a player gets skipped. And the depression of top players salary would be corrected when they hit free agency. If they’re that talented, the money will find them. In the mean time, they need to earn their way like anyone else who’s in an entry-level position.

      • dprat - Jun 7, 2011 at 7:36 PM

        “1) The whole reason slotting comes up is because teams are forced to pay over slot for players that haven’t performed and (in most cases) don’t meet the contract value.”

        I suspect that it may be true that “in most cases” players don’t return value equal to their draft signing bonus. But the more important point is that the ones that do can pay off in a huge way. There are many, many cases of players signing for $5M or even much, much less that return $20M, $50M, well over $100M in value to their teams before reaching free agency.

        Overall the draft is the biggest bargain there is for owners. The return per dollar invested is many times greater than what they get on the free agent market. It’s ridiculous for the owners to claim they aren’t getting value for their money in the draft, overslot or not.

  3. pmcenroe - Jun 7, 2011 at 11:46 AM

    I don’t think owners would agree to earlier free agency and I’m not sure that would be good for baseball in general, but I think you’re def. on the right track. I can probably see hard slotting if the owners agree to a 4th year of arbitration which could then also end super-two status.

  4. Loren - Jun 7, 2011 at 12:02 PM

    IIRC, the only reason the union has any say at all in the draft is because of the free agent compensation picks. Since no one who is being drafted is in the union, the only tie to union members are the compensation picks. If MLB gives up those picks (the union would have to agree, but since the current compensation system depresses free agent salaries somewhat they might be willing) then MLB could institute a hard slotted international double-blind draft or whatever else they could dream up without the union having any say-so.

    • dparker713 - Jun 7, 2011 at 3:40 PM

      The MLBPA has a say in any draft regardless of free agent compensation.

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