What makes the Rays draft unique is that they are likely to break the record for signing bonuses doled out with just those twelve picks alone. Never mind the remaining 47 picks from rounds 4 through 50.
Between 2008 and 2010, Tampa Bay had 11 top 100 picks, of which they signed only 9. In 2009, they did not sign either of the two picks they had in the top 100, and they still managed to drop over $4 million on draft bonuses. They are not afraid to spend on the draft to acquire talent. And that should frighten us all.
The record for draft bonuses doled belongs to the Nationals, set last year, breaking their record from the year before. Baseball America has the numbers for the last three seasons. I’m drawing data from them for slot numbers and what the Rays have averaged spending over slot in the top 100 in the last three seasons.
|Pick |||2010 Slot |||2010 Actual |||Team|
Last year teams went 11.7% over slot to sign the 12 picks that the Rays control, and spent over $10 million. But we can better predict the Rays behavior if we look at what they have done before.
|Year |||Pick |||Slot |||Actual|
|2009||30||$1,089,000 .||Did Not Sign .|
|2009||78||$463,500||Did Not Sign|
2009 is an obvious outlier, they signed neither of their picks. 2008 reflects the opposite type of outlier, the large over slot bonus for Tim Beckham makes it difficult for a point of comparison. But we can observe a pattern of behavior, when going over slot a premier talent, the Rays are apt to stay near slot for the rest of their picks. That leaves just 2010 as a basis of comparison. They went 5.4% over slot in 2010, but they also ran their highest big league payroll in club history (per Cot’s). That clearly restricted their willingness to spend freely in the draft.
They are expected to shed $30 million from last year’s payroll, which will give them greater flexibility to sign picks. As a result, I expect them to be closer to the league average 26.7% over slot from the last three years. Using that number and the 2010 slot values, the Rays can be expected to spend approximately $11.5 million on those 12 picks and easily blow through the Nats record. But what kind of talent will they land.
|Pick |||Top Player |||Career WAR |||Team |||Year|
|41||Fred Lynn||47.3||Red Sox||1973|
|42||Dennis Leonard .||24.0||Royals||1972|
I don’t expect them to get three Hall of Famers this June. The 2011 draft is expected to be quite deep, and afford Tampa Bay an opportunity to reload. We have reason to remain wary of the Rays.
Joe Tetreault blogs about the confluence of Business and Sports as Managing Editor of the Business of Sports Network and its flagship site, The Biz of Baseball and on more far flung topics over at TetreaultVision. Feel free to follow him on Twitter.