TYU fave Buster Onley weighs in on the draft, and discusses changing the current system, as many other have written about recently. He writes:
But here’s the thing: All of the teams picking in front of the Rockies, Royals, Rangers and Tigers know how good those guys are, just as the Padres recognized how good Justin Verlander might be when they passed on him and picked Matt Bush. The Royals understood the talent of Matt Wieters and Evan Longoria when they bypassed those two players in consecutive years. And all of the club officials from 26 teams who gritted their teeth and declined to take Rick Porcello before he landed with Detroit with the 27th pick in 2007 realized that there would probably be a day when he realized his great potential. Most baseball executives are not blind; evaluating talent is what they do for a living and they all saw great things in Porcello.
This is the problem with baseball’s draft, in a nutshell, a problem that many general managers want to fix during the next collective bargaining negotiation. They want the worst teams to be able to take the best players in the draft, rather than the most affordable good players. Or, they want the worst teams to at least be able to have a chance to realize the value of their draft position — so if the Mariners didn’t want to pay Dustin Ackley’s demands, expected to be in the range of $6.5 million, they could at least trade that pick to another team for other assets. But, as it stands, the Pirates wound up taking catcher Tony Sanchez because they won’t have to pay him that much and because it freed up other money for them to sign their other draft picks. Sanchez might turn out to be a decent player, but he is generally not perceived to be among the four best players in this year’s draft, so Pittsburgh lost out on the value of the No. 4 overall pick. They reached to get Sanchez, Chuck Finder writes.
We’ve heard this take a lot lately, but there’s a flip side to this argument. If you have a slotting system like they do in the NFL, that doesn’t hurt the MLBPA one bit, and it helps the owners. Especially the small market owners who want the top talent for less than its worth on the open market. Union members don’t get hurt (minor leaguers are not members of the MLBPA) small market owners benefit, sounds like a no-brainer, right?
So who gets hurt? The draftees. The Steven Strasburgs of the world who despite the fact that they are labeled ‘can’t miss’ still miss at least half of the time. And lesser prospects miss at a rate many times greater. If these kids were able to market their services in a free market system the top guys would get millions more than they currently can. Believe it or not, the 50 mil Boras is asking for isn’t unreasonable, that’s what he would get if Strasburg was able to declare himself a free agent. Maybe more, the BoSox paid over 100 mil to acquire the rights to Dice-K and many scouts feel Strasburg is a much safer bet and has a much higher ceiling.
And no, the players dont all make it back on the other end with free agency. The MLB draft is highly speculative, the vast majority of draftees will never be free agents on the major league level. Injuries, inability to make adjustments and the distractions that come with newfound money all conspire to derail their MLB Careers. This is their one big shot, and the small market owners want to shrink the opportunity they have for their own purposes. So the kid for whom the MLB draft is his one big shot to make a big payday gets sacrificed at the altar of Parity. All to benefit the small market teams. Sounds good for the small market owners (some of whom are billionaires) and bad for the draftees to me.
That’s not to say I think the current system isn’t broken and dont advocate for change of my own. I like the idea of being able to trade your draft picks as you can in other sports, though small market teams still would wind up without getting the real difference makers due to financial concerns. I think a much better system would involve tying Revenue Sharing/Luxury Tax payments to draft budgets. The pretense under which Revenue Sharing was instituted was ‘competitive balance’ (which in Baseball translates into “The Yanks are winning too much”) but we all know many owners have simply pocketed the cash. If they were forced to spend it on the draft or return the money to the league, I bet they wouldn’t mind drafting the ’signability’ cases quite as much. The fact of the matter is we have two systems that don’t work well, Revenue Sharing and the Draft. I’d fix them both at the same time by joining them at the hip.
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