Typically, the deadline for teams to sign the players that they select in each MLB First-Year Player Draft is 11:59 p.m. EST on August 15. That deadline changes when August 15 falls on a weekend, pushing the deadline back to the first Monday following August 15. This year fell into the exception, which is why 11:59 p.m. EST on August 16 (yesterday) was the deadline for players (with the help of their advisors) to negotiate with teams on a price that both sides felt was acceptable. No matter what day of the week August 15 falls on, college seniors and independent baseball players are immune to the deadline; they can sign with the teams that drafted them up until a week prior to the following draft.
Prior to August 16, this year’s deadline day, only 15 players selected in the first round had signed a contract. That left a whopping 17 players still negotiating deals at some point yesterday. In 2007, the first year that the signing deadline was moved up to August 15, changing the previous deadline of a week prior to the following draft, only 7 players had not signed when deadline day began. It is safe to assume that players and their savvy advisors have adapted to the nature of the beast and learned how to most effectively find the best agreement possible.
If you are interested in seeing which picks have signed and which ones have not, round by round, MLB.com has done a fantastic job organizing it and providing the date of when the player signed. Unfortunately, the site does not include signing bonuses, but that information, at least for the top 10 rounds, is available elsewhere.
An interesting point that has been raised by various agents and sports law scholars is based on the strong possibility that baseball’s new collective bargaining agreement, likely to begin after the 2011 championship season, will include a mandatory (instead of the current “recommended”) slotting system, similar to what is used in the NBA and is currently being considered by the NFL. That point is that some of the big spending teams (i.e. Red Sox, Yankees) will be more willing to dish out cash to its top picks now and take chances later in the draft on players passed up by the smaller market/more stingy teams, while they still have the opportunity to pay the best players the money they deserve (or claim they deserve). This can be a nice short term gain for the players’ advisors, but in the long run, advisors representing top picks under a slotting system have a lot to lose if you take into consideration their large compensation under the status quo.
Sports Law Blog’s Michael McCann gives some good insight as to how an advisor’s role may change in a world where baseball is bound by a slotting system:
In that setting, the goal of the agent would clearly be to have his or her player drafted as high as possible. So agents could still play a role — they could tell teams that unless a represented player who has remaining college eligibility is drafted in the first round (or by whatever threshold), teams would be better off drafting other players since the represented player will attend college or in some cases continue to play college baseball. The slotted money has to be good enough to turn pro.
And perhaps there will be a lot of advisors, who oftentimes are also attorneys, charging a flat fee or by the hour for their services instead of invoicing a player for a particular commission of the signing bonus. This would seem like almost a must for a college senior looking to have assistance in a draft bound by a slotting system.