Obviously, there’s no team development justification for this policy. If a team can’t get a pick signed, especially a high pick, it would only make sense for them to reallocate that budget money towards making sure to get other picks signed. At the end of the day it’s the same amount of money budgeted, and depending on how spread out the reallocation is, it probably doesn’t even make much of a difference at the margin. This is even more true if a team can’t get a top round pick signed, as they can then attempt to stockpile lower round talent at cheaper marginal prices and hope one or two of them pan out. It can’t be stated enough that good players routinely get drafted and sign well after the first few rounds of the draft, including all-time greats like Albert Pujols, who was taken in the 13th round. Anyone think the Cardinals have spent the last decade bemoaning how much money they had to spend to sign him in the draft?
But there won’t be any of that under the system Bud Selig and the new-age MLBPA devised, and that’s something that ought to raise every fan’s hackles. This isn’t a deal about helping teams acquire talented amateurs, and it’s definitely not a deal about helping small markets (indeed, since the amount of pool money each team gets for a draft will be inversely related to their record the previous season, the biggest losers in this new system are low revenue teams that find success, as they won’t be able to sustain a higher level of big league spending, and without the ability to invest more money in stockpiling amateurs will have no means for re-stocking their system quickly other than trading valuable big league players). This is solely about keeping signing bonuses artificially low, baseball costs be damned.
From the owners, I expect this. Lower bonuses means lower spending in the short-term, after all, and in the long-term owners know it will mean lower future salaries as well. They’re in this thing primarily to turn profits, and this will definitely help them do that. But the players? I’m beyond outraged that the players not only went along with this, but in many ways actively pushed for it. I’m even more disappointed that so many of them justify it by claiming that draft picks don’t “deserve” the money because they “haven’t played a single game yet.” Not that it’s not true as a factual matter, but from a business standpoint, amateur or not Gerritt Cole and Bryce Harper are much more valuable assets to Major League teams than the average big league journeyman, a fact that’s more or less self-evident to anyone who isn’t deluding themselves. Is there anyone among us who would not trade Russell Martin for Bryce Harper straight up? I asked that question last night on Twitter, and as of this writing I have yet to receive a response from anyone who claims to prefer Martin.
No, from the players’ perspective this is highway robbery, plain and simple. This is the Jamey Carrolls, Mark Ellises, and Juan Riveras of the world (who combined for 3.1 bWAR in 2011 but nonetheless have already signed deals worth a combined total of over $20 million this offseason) using the fact that they have representation in the process to attempt to take money away from more talented youngsters who are worth more money than these bit players but nevertheless aren’t represented in the process, and are thus ripe for exploitation.
Of course, no current player who received an over-slot bonus is expected to pay that money back or defer future earning accordingly. Funny, that.