Immediately following this year’s August 16th MLB First-Year Player Draft signing deadline, I noted that I had heard from various sports agents and sports law scholars, that based on the strong possibility of a future mandatory (instead of the current “recommended”) slotting system, 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).
Since many people within the business of baseball have been talking up the 2011 Draft and downplaying this year’s draft talent, it appears that this year’s draft picks might have benefited a bit from teams just willing to spend more cash on their selections. Bryce Harper received $9.9 million ($6.25 of that being a signing bonus), but he was certainly not the only bonus baby of the draft. Overall, bonuses were up $5.5 million from last year. If you include the guaranteed money for Bryce Harper, Yasmani Grandal, and Zach Cox, the disparity is even greater. Players will take a total of $200.9 million from MLB teams just based on being drafted.
And it was not just the Yankees and the Red Sox spending money on their picks. While The Red Sox were the #4 spender, they were beat out by the Washington Nationals, Pittsburgh Pirates, and Toronto Blue Jays. Next time those teams claim to be “small market teams”, you can remind them of their draft budgets. You could also just bring up Deadspin’s leaked financial documents.
Even though a vast majority of teams ignored MLB’s recommended slot values, The Atlanta Braves and Minnesota Twins remained extremely conservative, not going over slot with any of its picks. But even the Braves and Twins might not be able to refrain from becoming big spenders next year; a year where it should be quite nice to be advising the top players in the draft.
“If you thought we were aggressive this year, wait until you see next year,” an American League scouting director said. “It may be our last chance to sign a lot of the high school players, and we’re going to take advantage. A lot of other teams will, too.”
If that’s the case, draft spending will surge further upward in 2011.