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The 2010 MLB Draft And Possible Future Changes

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, 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.

By Darren Heitner

Darren Heitner created Sports Agent Blog as a New Year's Resolution on December 31, 2005. Originally titled, "I Want To Be A Sports Agent," the website was founded with the intention of causing Heitner to learn more about the profession that he wanted to join, meet reputable individuals in the space and force himself to stay on top of the latest news and trends.

Heitner now runs Heitner Legal, P.L.L.C., which is a law firm with many practice areas, including sports law and contract law. Heitner has represented numerous athletes and sports agents as legal counsel. He has also served as an Adjunct Professor at Indiana University Bloomington from 2011-2014, where he created and taught a course titled, Sport Agency Management, which included subjects ranging from NCAA regulations to athlete agent certification and the rules governing the profession. Heitner serves as an Adjunct Professor at the University of Florida Levin College of Law, where he teaches a Sports Law class that includes case law surrounding athlete agents and the NCAA rules.

8 replies on “The 2010 MLB Draft And Possible Future Changes”

Do you see any issue with the new CBA possibly including a slotting system when the vast majority of the players affected are not, nor ever will be, a member of the MLBPA?

That is a very interesting question. But how is it any different than the current situation where players are selected and signed to Minor League deals? I believe only 3 players taken in this year’s draft were given Major League deals (putting them on their team’s 40-man roster). What exactly changes with a slotting system?

I understand the difference in the slotting system. But how does it truly alter the current system where almost all players selected are not subjected to the CBA immediately? Think about it – the current system, like the future changed system (if a change happens), will both have been bargained for.

The majority of drafted players would not have “bargained for” anything. The current slotting system and draft compensation is not called for in the CBA, therefore most players are not directly affected by anything that was negotiated in the CBA. If a mandated slotting system were negotiated in the new CBA, you have the MLBPA bargaining away rights of people who are not members (except for in those rare circumstances), and using that as leverage to obtain other concessions in the CBA.

In your other major leagues, the players are automatically allowed to be a part of the union. In baseball, what would minor league players who are never going to be a part of the union have bargained for? Do you think that it is fair to bargain away the rights of other people and not give them anything in return?

Good point. You could make the argument that they are future employees, I suppose, even though many drafted players will never make it to The Show. Would you attempt to install a mandatory slotting system outside of the confines of the CBA? What would be your legal justification of doing so?

The “future employees” argument would not work once the empirical data is shown. I am not sure how you would install a mandatory slotting system outside of the CBA, because at that point you are starting to look into antitrust and collusion issues.

I think the only way a mandatory slotting system can legally be included in the CBA is if union benefits are extended to all minor league players. Doubtful that would ever happen, so key on the phrase “legally included”.

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