Vegas-Style Baseball Slots
You put in a quarter, pull the handle, and hope for the best. You may end up with the jackpot, but odds are you are going to fall victim to the law of averages. Vegas-style slots are set up so that more often than not, you will walk away without that quarter or any additional winnings. Major League Baseball has set up a similar slotting system for its yearly Amateur Draft. Players are selected, and most fall within the slot value of those selected in the same position a year before. But without a solid, set-in-stone, slotting system (like the NBA uses), there really is no way for a team to know whether it will end up signing the player it selected at the previous year’s slot value, pay more for the player, or lose the player completely because of an inability to sign.
This year, a lot of players drafted hit the jackpot.
Three of the four largest up-front bonuses ever were paid out, led by the Giants giving No. 5 overall pick Buster Posey $6.2 million. The 27 first-round picks who signed received an average bonus of $2,484,963, more than $300,000 than ever before, and an increase of 18.4 percent from 2007, the biggest jump in the era of Major League Baseball’s recommendations for bonus slots.
The house kept the money on Aaron Crow, though. But when the house keeps its money, there is no guarantee that the clientèle will come back in the future. Jim Bowden, GM of the Washington Nationals (the team that selected Crow), is not too fond of this vegas-style system.
The system doesn’t work. And, you know, I think it would be in the best interest of the players and the clubs and the fans if there was a hard slotting system, whatever the numbers end up being — let’s take the numbers out. The player has to sign into the draft. They have to say they’re going to sign, and sign into the draft. The clubs then are allowed to take the best player, and wherever you’re drafted, the slotting system will pay you whatever that value is. … It should be a system where you don’t have small markets trying to do pre-cut deals or small markets not taking the best player because they can’t afford him. It should be a system where everybody gets to take the best player when it’s their turn to draft, and the player should sign and go. We shouldn’t sit all summer. Aaron Crow shouldn’t have to go home right now and play for the Fort Worth Cats and sit out and wait ’til next year’s June draft and then maybe until August 14 before he signs again. I don’t think that’s fair to him, I don’t think it’s good for baseball, it’s not good for the club, it’s not good for anybody.
I just think a hard slotting system would be the long-term solution for our sport. To sit there and have the negotiations that took place with several clubs between 11:30 and 12 where you’re talking about huge movements with lots of players where some teams didn’t even have conversations with the agent until quarter to 12 last night, and deals got done at 11:59 with literally, I understand, no conversations for long periods of time. I’m not sure that’s the best way to do business for a sport.
Is it not fair to Crow or is it actually more fair to him to be able to negotiate his value instead of fall into a hard slotting system? If the MLB were to use a hard slotting system, would we then not allow high school seniors to enter the draft? What about Junior College players? To stretch the question even further, should we then allow college juniors to declare for the draft? What if they get selected in the 40th round. They should have to sign also? Obviously, there are issues with the current system. Players are hurt by holding out until the last second and even having to play a year with an Independent Ball team. Teams are hurt because they cannot sign some of their best picks and lose valuable time training them if they sign right before the deadline. Buster Posey is happy right now, but many on both sides of the fence are not. Is there a solution to this mess?