Draft Winds of Change Picking Up Momentum

On the heels of the signing deadline comes this piece from the Washington Post Nationals Journal.  Contained therein is the key quote from Bud Selig:

There’s no question in my mind, in 2011, certainly a [hard] slotting system and a worldwide draft are things we will be very aggressive in talking about.

The article references that teams spent about $160 million in the first 10 rounds of the draft, but it fails to mention the probability that the total will rise slightly higher if Indy league pitchers Aaron Crow and Tanner Scheppers sign prior to next years draft.  Teams spent $161 million in the first 10 rounds of the 2008 draft, but that was done within a very different economic climate than the respective organizations face today.

All told, this year’s spending will slightly surpass last year’s while the country is in the grips of a recession.  It is painfully obvious that Selig’s attempts to reign in spending on this year’s draft were extremely unsuccessful.  Based on his quotes above, he gets that and appears ready to dig in and take a different approach by fixing the draft issues through the CBA.

The good news for baseball fans is that this fight does not figure to be very contentious.  The article by the Post mentions that several players in leadership positions within the union’s rank and file have publicly lobbied for a cap on bonuses for draft picks.  You may or may not be aware that Royals union representative Mark Teahen is one of those players and he is definitely not alone.  Teahen addressed this very topic in his weekly segment with Soren Petro on 810 WHB.  I recommend all baseball fans take the time to go back and listen to Teahen’s segments with Soren.  You can check out the podcasts here (just click on any of the 3 latest links under The Program, and then when the podcast window opens you can scroll through to find Mark Teahen’s segments).

If the player’s union goes along with slotting and a cap on bonuses, they will certainly want something in return.  I think an even trade-off would be a salary floor on the ML payrolls for all teams.  If this all comes to fruition it is a win-win scenario for all baseball fans.  On the one hand, these changes will reign in some of the spending in the draft and ensure that the best talent gets selected by the teams at the top of the draft.  No more cases of Rick Porcello falling to 27th overall due to bonus demands when he should have been a top 5 pick.  On the flip side, fans of the teams subject to the payroll luxury tax would rest a little easier knowing that teams like the Marlins, Rays, and Royals would have to spend the money they are getting.  Reports vary but the general consensus is that the Royals took in over $100 million this year from the luxury tax, revenue sharing, and MLB central fund before they sold a single ticket.  In short, there is absolutely no reason that teams should have a payroll less than $80 million, assuming they put the other $20 million into their farm system and talent acquisition.  Just think how much better MLB would be.  I can guarantee the Yankees, and others, would have a tougher time assembling a fantasy baseball team with more teams forced to spend the money being given to them.  More balanced competition is better for baseball fans everywhere.

A worldwide draft would just be icing on the cake, but I fear that piece to the puzzle might be at least one more CBA away from becoming a reality due to its intrinsic complexity.

After reading the Washington Post’s article, I feel a little better about the fact that Bud Selig understands what needs to happen to fix the system.  Based on the fact that his quotes came out shortly after the deadline, it is also clear that he understands his efforts to hold down spending were futile.

The winds of change are blowing when it comes to the draft and that is a good thing for everyone.  They might not completely fix the broken system in the next CBA, but I am confident that they will at least make an attempt to address some of the problems.

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Tags: AL Central Baseball Bud Selig Draft Kansas City Royals KC Mark Teahen MLB Royals

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