Draft Rules Need To Change

With the 2007draft now complete, the results are in; the new draft and follow rules and signing
deadlines have had an effect. I won’t go on here, but would like to mention the Rick Porcello pick. The 18-year-old was easily the best high school
pitcher in the country; possibly the best in upward of 10 years. But he fell to
27th overall to the Tigers, who seem willing to meet his agent’s
demands for what some believe is an eight-figure signing bonus.

 

First – Good
on the Tigers. Ignoring the slotting issue for a moment, Detroit has not sat on their laurels or played
the disassembling game the Marlins have made famous; taking apart a championship
team twice in the past 10 years, pocketing the playoff revenue then looking for
sharing funds in the subsequent season. The Dave Dombrowski led organization has
taken the money from their 2006 season and reinvested it back into winning
another. With this pick they’re showing a willingness to invest beyond just this
season. And why shouldn’t they? The team has a storied history and Detroit and area does not fall under the auspice of small market. They should bring the fans to their new-ish facilities,
and they should be willing to compete annually.

 

Having a Porcello
fall to the American League Champion defeats the purpose of the draft ranking,
and goes against the steadfast philosophy of the rules that prevent the trade
of draft picks. It’s time to revisit this as it’s become obscene in combination
with the pressures MLB puts on the clubs to remain within their guidelines of
what a drafted player should receive as a bonus. I’ll use a revisionist look
into recent history to make this point.

  

In 2004 the top player in the country
was shortstop Stephen Drew out of Florida State. The Padres
had the first overall pick in that year, but Drew, a Scott Boras client, was
going to be a difficult sign. So the organization went the safe route attempting
to comply with the MLB prescribed signing guidelines, making a surprise choice
in another shortstop, home grown high-schooler Matt Bush. A sign-able pick, he
received a $3.15 million bonus, and Drew slid to the Diamondbacks at No. 15,
who got into a complicated arrangement, giving Drew $4 million as a bonus with up
to $5.5 through a five-year contract period. For the sake of this argument, we’ll
say they paid $6 million more, with the notion the sum is approximately nine
percent of their (and the Padres) current salary costs. And how did it play out?

 

Drew is currently
a major leaguer  –called up in 2006 —
being paid a base salary of $750,000, the amortized contract amount already covered
in the six-million tag; a star of the future. And Bush, who lost the home grown
spin potential when he instantly ran afoul of the law, has posted a .221/.291/.276
from Rookie ball through low Single-A, his bat and defense so dismal the Padres
are attempting to convert him into a pitcher. A 21-year-old newfound pitching prospect
with a 90 mph fastball? A potential middle reliever in a few years. The end analysis
shows the Padres have lost three million dollars, in a first overall selection,
strictly due to their willingness to comply with major league baseball, and not
spend nine percent of their salary budget; the Diamondbacks have a bargain on
their hands for a few years.

 
It’s nowhere
near as simple or clear-cut, the trials and failures go back and forth as the years
wear on. The one certainty is the Padres did a poor job. But they lost because
they couldn’t trade the pick and get something of value, instead choosing to
take a hit that many, myself included, predicted. The trade rules have to
change, and again it’s not all black and white.

 
If
baseball is America’s pastime, then the occupation is
the maintenance of the capitalist system. Any move to allow draft pick trades,
would have to be carefully configured with concise legislation. Baseball does
not want to have Scott Boras and co. have any more effect on the draft than
they already do. The ability to manipulate the market is Boras’ job and he does it well. At
present high school draft picks have leverage with college commitments, college
picks have leverage if they have NCAA eligibility left. Some argue that’s
already too much power. But at present the small market teams are not getting
anything in the first round for their draft ranking, choosing the player they
can sign, leaving the best talent to those teams whose financial circumstances make
them better situated and with more juice to ignore the MLB guidelines.

 

Something has give. The have-nots cannot
continue to watch both the Hot Stove League and the draft process from the
sidelines.

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