CBA Updates: Draft Slotting Notes

Two updates on the Collective Bargaining Agreement, and the draft slotting talks that are holding the agreement back:

-Jon Heyman tweets that MLB and the union aren’t far from a new CBA deal, but draft slotting is still a snag.  Heyman mentions that Bud Selig is pushing for hard slotting, which we already knew.  However, he also mentions that small market teams want hard slotting.

That last comment might seem strange to Pirates fans, who have watched their small market team take advantage of the draft like no other team, spending a league leading $48 M over the last four drafts.  However, not all small market teams take advantage of the system, as seen in Baseball America’s breakdown of the draft spending from 2007-2011.  While teams like the Pirates, Royals, and Orioles were in the top five in draft spending, teams like the Marlins, Athletics, and Twins were in the bottom half in draft spending, with each team spending less than half of what the Pirates spent.

It wasn’t that long ago that Pirates fans also wanted hard slotting.  The Pirates passed on guys like Matt Wieters, all because of the negotiation process with Scott Boras.  In 2004 the draft saw Jered Weaver, the number one overall prospect in the draft, fall to the 12th pick due to high bonus demands.  It seems unlikely that the same thing would happen today, as teams seem to be more willing to go over-slot, especially in the first round.  However, not every team approaches the draft the same way the Pirates have in the 2008-2011 years.

It’s really an issue of accepting the system for what it is, and taking advantage of that system.  The current draft system is no different than free agency: it favors the big spending teams.  Technically, the draft should see a change to put everyone on equal footing.  However, without a change to free agency, a draft slotting system would just remove the advantage that small market teams have, even if not all of those teams are embracing the current system.

-Heyman also adds that MLB has offered to drop draft pick compensation attached to free agents, in exchange for draft slotting.  However, he mentions that the union is against hard slotting.  Am I the only one who finds it strange that it’s the union that is protecting the best interests of the Pirates in this situation?

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Tim Williams

Tim is the owner and editor in chief of Pirates Prospects. He started the site in January 2009, and turned it into his full time job during the 2011 season. Prior to starting Pirates Prospects, Tim worked with, providing MLB, NHL, and NFL coverage to various national media outlets, including ESPN Insider, USA Today, Yahoo Sports, and the Wall Street Journal. He also writes the annual Prospect Guide, which is sold through the site. Tim lives in Bradenton, where he provides live coverage all year of Spring Training, mini camp, instructs, the Bradenton Marauders, and the GCL Pirates.

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  • Anonymous

    @Tim:disqus  let me preface by saying I lack the intelligence, where with all, energy, know how, etc to really know all the factors but I think maybe we’re being a little shortsighhted on this matter. 1st every large market team has the opputunity(and more ability) to spend large amounts on overslot guys, its just a question of whether they choose to. Which gives the Pirates a very lmited advantage if any. 2nd draft slotting will comletely change the draft itself, bringing cost certainty, limiting holdouts, getting players in minors much sooner. The only thing i see it doing for sure is take negotiating power away from HS prospects. These players may still fall but you should have a much better idea if they are signing.

    The real problem is the compensation system there is no reason why playoff teams like Boston and Tampa should have 8-11 picks before the Pirates pick twice. If that was fixed along with the hard sloting that could bring the Bucs cost certainty along with higher picks.

    I would think the first few rounds would become 90% college players with high upside prep guys going in later rounds. You may see an increased number of guys going to college but that doesnt hurt any teams long term.

    • Tim Williams

      Large market teams can spend on over-slot guys. However, that doesn’t really affect the Pirates in the first round. For example, this year the Pirates had their choice of players. They could have taken Cole no matter what the large market teams were spending. They also would have had exclusive negotiating rights with him no matter what the large market teams spent.

      Where this does affect the Pirates is in situations like Bell. If large market teams start spending, we’re less likely to see a Josh Bell fall to the Pirates in round two. That said, nothing was stopping the Yankees or Red Sox from drafting him and throwing $5 M at him this year. So I’m not sure how much that type of situation would change. I think most large market teams are thinking short term. They’d rather spend $5 M on a free agent, rather than a high school outfielder.

      • Anonymous

        Not sure if we’re kinda making the point. The Pirates have no real advantage other than they pick earlier than most big market teams, inflating their yearly draft spending. every team had 2 or more chances to draft Bell. The Red Sox were really high on him but must have thought his commitment was too strong. Im sure they would have been willing to go way over slot to get him.(Like they went and got Ranaudo the year prior. Who I was hoping would fall to bucs in the 2nd).
        Regardless if they are more predisposed to spend that on the major league team, they are more than capable of grabbing most overslot players the Pirates have drafted. Just saying in theory the Bucs advantage is overstated.
        Hard slotting stops teams from drafting Bryan Bullington No. 1 overall. The top talent willl go to the worst team and work its way down. Maybe the Pirates can take the draft money saved and dump it into scouting and advanced analysis.
        As much as the Pirates have spent in the past I’m still not sure that they have done better than some teams like Tampa, Boston, Toronto, that have had 4 or more picks in the 1st and supplemental rd.
        I think hard slotting makes for a more “true draft” only if the compensation system is fixed. Alll the better if it becomes a worldwide draft and picks can be traded. Then  Neal can really go out and show what he can do. Say trade a doumit for a 2nd rd pick that becomes a Matt Purke type or someone of the like. 

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