Tag Archives: Amateur Draft

What Value Would the Trading of Draft Picks Add?


Over at Minor League Ball, John Sickels interviewed Athletics GM Billy Beane, and this little nugget really caught my eye:

SICKELS: With the basic agreement up for negotiation as we approach 2012, what do you think of the idea of trading draft picks?

BEANE: I think it would be a great idea. I have always been in favor of that, it would create more interest in the draft for the fans, and as a GM anything that improves my flexibility is a good thing.
SICKELS: Will it happen? It always gets talked about but it never gets implemented.

BEANE: Well, I can’t say for sure obviously, we’ll have to see what gets negotiated. I would say that it is a better than 50/50 chance, but it is not guaranteed. We’ll just have to see.

This really caught my attention, as it is something that happens in both the NFL and NBA right now, and is another asset that allows for the movement of players. When you think about it, amateur draft picks are the only commodity in baseball that cannot be traded for something else.

The example I heard mentioned on the Baseball Prospectus Podcast was this: What if the Nationals had decided that they did not want to meet the demands of Bryce Harper or Stephen Strasburg in either of the last two years? Undoubtedly, there would have been a team that would have been willing to meet those demands if the Nationals had not, and as such this pick has trade value. Would the Nationals have been better if they had, say, traded the rights to the #1 overall pick (Bryce Harper) to the Yankees for a package of Jesus Montero and another top-10 prospect? I’m inclined to believe that both teams would have benefitted from this.

I could see using future draft picks as another commodity in the same way that the minor leagues are used now. Would the Mariners have wanted instead of some of the secondary players in the Cliff Lee trade, instead they received Justin Smoak and the Rangers’ 1st round pick in 2011?

The biggest concern to me would be that there probably would need to be a limitation on how far into the draft (rounds deep) and how many years in advance a team could trade, but I think that this bears consideration. Even if the owners are able to get a hard slotting system for the draft, there could still be a lot of value in the ability to trade picks, as teams may not want to take players at certain picks and “move down” like seems to happen in the NFL a lot.

Fixing the Amateur Draft


For those that may not have known, the players selected in the amateur draft in June are only allowed to sign with the teams that drafted them until August 15th, or the first business day after that if it falls during a weekend (which it does this year). Note that this deadline only applies to players who still have eligibility at the college level, so college seniors have until the following year’s draft.

It has become a pretty standard practice that the top picks do not sign until as close to the deadline as humanly possible. On Saturday, at 10 PM EST, 15 of the first 32 picks and 12 of 18 supplemental 1st round picks had signed contracts. However, the top 3 picks, and 7 of the top 10 picks remain unsigned.

To me, the thing that stands out as really unusual with the amateur draft is the sheer size of the signing bonuses received by players who have not played a single inning as a professional. Last season, Stephen Strasburg received a $15.4 million contract, with $7.5 million of that being a signing bonus to be paid over 3 installments. While the salary portion of the contract is not unreasonable (the remainder is split over 4 seasons), the idea that he will be paid so much so soon surely must present a problem to other players who have worked their way up from later rounds of the draft, or via the international market.

The perfect example of what shouldn’t be happening is this, via MLBTradeRumors.com: The Nationals signed their 2nd round pick, Sammy Solis, to a deal worth $1M, and also their 4th round pick, A.J. Cole, to a deal worth $2M. Even though there were almost 150 players drafted before him, the only players to sign for a larger bonus so far have all been in the top 10 selections of the draft.  Now, I understand that the bargaining positions of certain players can change depending on their eligibility and their ability to re-enter the draft. But the idea that a player taken two rounds later could or should get a bonus twice as large as a different player seems really unusual.

I have to imagine that the draft is something that is going to be addressed as a part of the next collective bargaining agreement, and here’s some ideas I would love to see them implement:

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Roster Rules – The Rule 4 Amateur Draft


The Rule 4 amateur draft is held each year in June. It is 50 rounds long, and also includes the compensatory picks related to free agency. The draft order is set based on the previous season’s win-loss record, with ties being broken by the team’s win-loss record for the season prior to that.

Eligible Players:

Any players who have not signed a contract who fit the following criteria:

  • Resident of the U.S., Canada, or any U.S. territory
  • They must have graduated from high school, but not attended college
  • They must have attended a 4 year college and be either 21, or in their junior or senior year.
  • They must have attended a community or junior college.

Once a player is drafted, they have a certain window to sign a contract with a team. For most players, that window ends on August 15th. College seniors who have graduated (or run out of eligibility), have a longer window, due to their not being able to return to school any longer. If a team fails to sign their pick, they may potentially receive a compensation pick in the following year’s draft, depending on what round the player was drafted in.

If a player does not sign by the end of their window, their age will determine when they will be eligible to be drafted again. For players drafted out of high school, they will not be eligible until they meet the requirements for college players. For college players, they will be eligible in the following year’s draft. Notable examples in previous years include Aaron Crow, and Tanner Scheppers.

Each year, the office of the Commissioner gives out guidelines for what the signing bonus of each pick in the draft should be. The logic is that the best player available should be the top selection, and receive the highest signing bonus. This is also known as the slotting system. However, many teams do not adhere to it, as it is not a requirement to do so.

Analysis:

Since players drafted generally take between 2 to 4 years to make an impact at the major league level, organizations try to minimize their risk at the draft. This can include drafting players based on signability rather than talent, drafting lower ceiling players with a higher potential to reach their ceiling, and avoiding talented players with makeup concerns. This can lead to some unusual choices from time to time.

The slotting system does not help teams to land the top players available all the time, since it is only a suggestion and not a requirement. A great example was Rick Porcello. When Porcello was eligible to be drafted, he was widely viewed as a top-5 draft pick. However, knowledge of his contract demands became public, and many teams shied away from him due to concerns about signability. Since he was a high school student, if he didn’t sign, he could simply go to college, and wait 2 years to be drafted again. As a result, he fell to the end of the first round, when he was drafted by the Detroit Tigers, and received a contract well over the slot suggested by the commissioner’s office. The Tigers were willing to pay him what it took to get him signed. The reason that this has become a bigger problem is that it works, as evidenced by the season that Porcello had in 2009. If he had not signed with the Tigers, he would have been eligible to be drafted this coming season in 2010. The Tigers’ willingness to pay Porcello what he believed he was worth impacted this season, as well as future ones as well.

Also, the fact that international players are not subject to the draft has become a point of contention. All international players who have not signed contracts are considered to be free agents, and a player can be signed after June 2nd of the year that they turned 16. As a result, teams that can offer better development opportunities and better money will generally get these players, leaving the other teams out of the process.

The Rule 4 draft is going to be a hot topic of discussion when the next collective bargaining agreement negotiations begin, and could very well see some large-scale changes with wide-ranging impacts on the market for players.

Sources:
Wikipedia
Sons of Sam Horn

Links for 11/10/09