Griffin: MLB Draft budget will level playing field in a bad way for Blue Jays
It's a brave new world for major league baseball's general managers inside the June draft.
When MLB announced its new collective bargaining agreement last fall, it included sweeping changes directed at levelling the playing field for the June entry draft of amateur players that begins with the televised first round, in Canada, on Sportsnet-1, live from Secaucus, N.J., on Monday at 7 p.m.
The two major changes instituted under baseball's new CBA were 1) in altering the previous draft-pick compensation procedure for losing Type A and B players to free agency under which teams could previously recoup amateur draft picks as compensation from the player's new, signing organization, and 2) in assigning a hard dollar figure attached to every draft choice through the first 10 rounds of the 40-round, three-day procedure.
The Houston Astros, for instance, in 2012 will have $7.2 million to spend on the first selection overall, their reward for finishing dead last in the standings a year ago. Meanwhile, the final amateur draft pick of the 10th round, No. 338 overall, will be made by the Phillies and is worth $125,000, according to the commissioner's office.
After that, from the 11th to the 40th round, all picks may be paid a bonus of anywhere from $1 up to $100,000. Anything over the assigned slot numbers for any pick, in any round, will be tracked by major-league baseball with specific penalties for each percentage-point of overspending from the hard slot, ranging from fines to loss of future first-round picks.
Over the first 10 rounds, you may choose to sign a player for less than slot and transfer the difference in dollars to another prospect, but if you do not sign the player at all -- say a high school player chooses to go to college -- you lose that slot amount, every dollar of it.
For instance if the Astros drafted Richard Griffin with their second pick, and negotiated a $1,000 signing bonus, they could use the balance of the $1,258,700 assigned bonus to sweeten the pot for their first overall selection. If I refused to sign, they woiuld lose it all.
According to Jays' GM Alex Anthopoulos, the penalties are not worth defying slot amounts.
The bottom line is that all of these arbitrary changes that have been imposed affect high school and college kids that are not even union members but were thrown in as concessions traded off by the players' association as bargaining chips for something more in the immediate best interest of their current, card-carrying, dues-paying members.
Fair to the kids? No. But baseball now feels it has control of the process, catering to the many teams that don't like to spend and were being embarrassed and dragged reluctantly upward in handing out huge signing bonuses to teens, many of whom will never make it.
The new draft rules penalize aggressive organizations, like the Jays, that like to build a winner from within. Another arbitrary rule change is there are six new draft picks after the first round that will be assigned in a lottery of the 10 lowest-revenue teams.
Fair? Again, the answer is no. In some cases, small markets are undeniably small markets. In other cases, it may be a reward for marketing incompetence. Baseball would argue there is more parity under terms of the new draft, but unfortunately that parity often translates to mediocrity in terms of scouting effort.
Why did baseball, under commissioner Bud Selig, press for these changes? The new rules serve to level the playing field for all MLB teams, removing the edge previously available to aggressive, imaginative organizations, willing to spend more for their grassroots scouting and for the right to sign 17-21 year-old kids. Some of these youngsters turn out to be diamonds in the rough, while other teams spend their money on the sure-thing of six-year, established free agents, in what has always been the lazy way to build a contender.
Even Anthopoulos, who had masterfully manipulated the rules over the past two draft procedures in 2010-11 to re-stock the farm system -- especially with starting pitching -- is not sure how the new slotting system will affect his draft over the next three days.
In 2010, Anthopoulos' first draft as GM, he had manipulated nine picks in the first three rounds, including eight of the top 93 selections. In '11, the Jays boasted eight draft choices in the first two rounds, including seven of the first 78 picks. If you consider that there are 30 teams in MLB that is a pretty good haul for one team. No more.
This year, the Jays select 17th, 22nd, 50th, 58th, 60th and 81st overall. The budget assigned them under the new agreement will total $8,830,800 for the first 10 rounds. That includes $2 million for the 17th selection,$1.8 million for the 22nd and $1 million for No. 50 overall. They will make five selections Monday, the first day of the draft. This year, as left over residue from the old draft rules, the Jays will still have a few extra picks, but next year they will be back on the same level playing field as everyone else. The fun is done.
Come back to thestar.com at 7 p.m. for a live blog of the MLB player draft.