As happens every year following the draft, the airwaves, newspapers and blogs have been filled today with demands for a hard slotting system in Major League Baseball.
If you’ve read my work for any appreciable amount of time (thank you), you know that I’m not in favor of most restraints on player salaries. Accordingly, I’ve spent all day leaving comments on blogs and yelling at the radio voicing my disapproval of hard slotting in the MLB draft.
You can read my thoughts on why hard slotting is unnecessary here. I don’t have much new to say, just want to bring it to the forefront of the blog.
I will say that it was interesting to see seventeen first-round picks unsigned yesterday morning. In fact, thirteen of those guys were still unsigned thirty minutes before the deadline.
One suggestion I’ve heard today is to move the signing deadline up. One disadvantage of signing late is in missing playing time over the summer. It hurts the player and the organization. In that respect, I could support a deadline that falls earlier in the summer. That being said, it won’t solve the last-minute-signee problem. Whenever the deadline is, some players will hold out until the bitter end.
Does that mean we need hard slotting? No. To me, that is not a legitimate reason to restrain a person’s ability to earn money. Why is the owners’ interest more important than the player’s?
What I’ve heard a lot today is that the system should be like the NBA. That’s like comparing apples to oranges. The NBA’s slotting system applies to first-year salary, not a signing bonus (which is the issue in MLB). A first-round NBA pick will be playing on the pro team immediately. The same is not true for a first-round MLB pick. In fact, many first-round picks never make it to the Majors. Some of them don’t get guaranteed contracts either, they only get that signing bonus. You can’t simply take the NBA model and move it to MLB.
You can read the rest of my thoughts on my old post – from why the biggest myth surrounding hard slotting is that the MLBPA should support it to how the Pirates paid out the sixth highest amount in signing bonuses in 2009, despite being the “poorest” team in MLB according to Forbes.
**UPDATE: I’ve been following the debate on another blog, and I spotted this comment from Mike Darcy (who granted me permission to republish) that touches on a couple of points I hadn’t previously discussed:
Not only will MLB lose access to legitimate two-sports stars who will smartly decide to take more money from the other sports, but it will have a longer-range impact. There is already a great concern in MLB about the loss of black athletes to other sports. These kids already see the guaranteed money that top players get in other sports, as well as the endorsement contracts many sign before they even play a game, so this will further the perception (and it’s more than a perception) that if they want to make money they should stay away from baseball. This will cause a further drain, because at a much younger age these kids will elect simply not to play baseball in even more numbers than they are already. (And, yes, I know that MLB is more lucrative once a player makes the majors, but this means nothing to a twelve-year-old deciding on what sport he’ll play.)
Last, and probably of greater concern than what I’ve mentioned above, it will also remove the flexibility MLB teams have in luring talented players on the bubble. I’m not talking about legitimate two-sports stars (those will be lost since MLB teams won’t be able to compete with the other professional sports), I’m talking about other exceptional athletes debating what to do. One example is Austin Jackson, who the Yankees drafted in the 8th round. They gave a record-signing bonus to Jackson for an 8th-round pick (800K), because Jackson was going to Georgia Tech on a scholarship to play basketball, which is his favorite sport. I’m guessing by his height (6’3″) that Jackson wouldn’t have been good enough for the NBA, but he was heading off to college to dedicate a lot of his time playing basketball. Even if he eventually signed to play baseball (an unknown), he’d still be in the minors, as opposed to being a MLB player. And while, in this case, some people used to question if the Yankees had an advantage in signing Jackson because they have more money, in reality the Yankees overall don’t spend that much more money on their draft picks than any team. And in Jackson, it was Yankee money, but it’s the Detroit Tigers who are benefiting, since not only do they get Jackson without spending the upfront 800K, they also unloaded Granderson’s contract on the Yankees. The Tigers benefit. The Yankees benefit. MLB benefits here. Jackson benefits.
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