For a couple years now we’ve heard two things with respect to the Ricketts family’s spending proclivities now that they own the Chicago Cubs: (1) whatever money comes in, they intend on spending on the team, and (2) the spending won’t just be on the big-league payroll.

But, until recently, it was hard to put a finger on just how point number two was playing out.

It still might take some time to be sure, be we got a very good indication with this week’s First Year Player Draft, where the Cubs took an inordinately high number of high school and early college prospects, whom folks believe will require a bit of extra cash to sign. Notable among those names are high schoolers Daniel Vogelbach (1B, 2nd Round), Trevor Gretzky (1B, 7th Round), Shawon Dunston, Jr. (OF, 11th Round), and Dillon Maples (RHP, 14th Round).

Better yet, Wilken himself has confirmed that Ricketts told the Cubs’ scouting director that he could consider the checkbook opened, so to speak.

“Tom came out and told us we’ll be more active on the amateur side,” Wilken said Wednesday. “When you feel you have a shot to sign players, it changes the strategy in how you pick. It was like Christmas Day for scouts.”

It’s not exactly an Albert Pujols or Prince Fielder signing, but that decision from Ricketts is incredibly encouraging because (1) it’s the first sign that he’s really putting into place his stated plan to revamp the organization from top to bottom, and (2) it’s the kind of thing that pays big dividends down the road.

The move to spending more money in the draft would be a welcomed one for the Cubs, who’ve ranked just 24th in amateur bonus spending in the last five years. That assumes, of course, that the Cubs continue to be a relative market leader in international spending, and they don’t just shift international dollars to domestic dollars. Yes, I know it’s an unfair system, but hey: the Cubs are one of the big market teams, and if there’s going to be unfairness, better to be on the winning side, right?

  • Skooter

    I don’t think it’s unfair at all, Ace. If you set up shop in a small market you know what to expect from the get go, and let’s talk about recent World Series victories, say the record of the Marlins and oh, say, a team like the Cubs. A good team is a good team is a good team. The Marlins built 2 solid teams, I think the system is more than fair. God is fucking unfair. WTF? 100 years!?

    • Ace

      I don’t think you can criticize the Kansas City Royals for “setting up shop in a small market.” Fortunately, smaller market clubs are spending more in the draft than ever before, but they aren’t quite doing so internationally. How do you think the Yanks and Red Sox keep there systems stocked with top prospects despite constantly trading prospects away and giving up draft picks with free agent signings? They do it because the system is unfair.

      But, again I say: it benefits the Cubs (theoretically), so it’s fine with me. I love intellectual dishonesty…

  • TWC

    What’s the advantage to not signing? I’ve never really understood. They’re not really thinking that it’s to their advantage to develop in college or other non-pro system and then get re-drafted next year, is it? Isn’t getting drafted the whole point? Or is it just the whole “meh, screw the Cubs, I’ll hold out and hopefully get drafted by Cleveland next year” sort of thing?

    Anyone here ever read a book about two baseball-playing brothers who got drafted? I probably read it ~25 years ago… maybe 5th, 6th grade?… I think it was about their last high school season. One kid gets drafted by the Phillies (?) declines to sign and gets picked up in a later round by the Cubs? Well, I’ve been confused on the whole non-signing thing for at least that long.

    • Ace

      The hope they can get drafted higher the next year is the reason. A lot of these late draft picks are high schoolers or early college guys whose talent outpaces the level of their pick because scouts have determined that the player believes he can go even higher the next year. Higher pick generally means more money. Signing as a 15th round pick, generally, pays a whole lot less than signing as a 5th round pick. The only time it pays more is if the team believes you’re actually a 5th round talent, and you’re threatening to go back to school unless they pay you like a 5th round talent.

      • TWC

        Right, I mean I understand that and all: ego, pride, etc. Goes with the territory it seems.

        I guess I’m just sore that I was never drafted. All them teams can just go piss off.

        • Ace

          I was taken in the 49th round by the Montreal Expos.

          That’s not true, but doesn’t it sound kind of believable?

          • TWC

            I think I have your ’88 Donruss Rated Rookies card somewhere…

            • Ace

              If you have the one where it shows what I wrote on the bottom of my bat, you can sell it for a cool $8.

    • Michigan Goat

      I think some of these HS and early college students also consider the odds of making it to the show and getting paid vs. a free college education. I know if my son was considering signing out of high school vs. a college education I’d have a hard time telling him to take his chances with the MLB. This is a major difference btwn baseball and other sports. The success rate just because your a 1-3 draft pick is so low.

      • TWC

        If my son didn’t sign with a ML team when drafted I’d disown him. He KNOWS it’s his job to fulfill my unrealized ambitions.

        • Michigan Goat

          LOL, Not to mention that Bentley and beach home I deserve.

      • hardtop

        i know a ball player who had a full ride to stanford amoung other schools. his family all told him to go to school! dont take your chances in the minors, what if you never make it to the show, etc. etc. i cant recall what round he was drafted in, 4th or 14th, something with a 4. anyway there was cash involved and the kid took it. it took him awhile. mostly due to injury set backs, but hes a pro ball player and makes an insane chunk of change, by real people standards, and not too shabby baseball standards. for what ever thats worth…

  • auggie1955

    I have suspected that the Cubs ranked near the bottom on what they spent on amateur bonus signings. This is a philosophy that has been with the Cubs since the 90s and MacPhail. Spend money on free agents to put butts in the seats, and forget about player development. There was quite a long wait between Grace in ’89 and Patterson in 2001. And remember Patterson got rushed to be up with the Cubs.

    The only time the Cubs had a GM who understood that player development, trades and free agent signings all had to play a role in building a winning team was ’84 with Dallas Green. What did the organization do? They fired him.

    The only curses that plague the Cubs are greed and stupidity.

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