MoneyOn Sunday, the Chicago Cubs lost to the St. Louis Cardinals.

It was a quiet ending to a forgettable season, and, with now-former manager Dale Sveum’s future hanging in the balance, and the Cardinals having already clinched the NL Central, the game, itself, attracted little attention.

Indeed, by the time the game was played, the only result-oriented aspect relevant to the Cubs was whether they’d be picking 4th in the MLB Draft in 2014 or 5th. With their loss, the Cubs clinched that 4th spot over the Minnesota Twins, who also lost, and finished with a record matching the Cubs. Since the tiebreaker was whichever team had a worse 2012 record, the Cubs got the higher pick. (See? That awful 2012 season keeps on paying long-term dividends!)

But is that all the Cubs got by virtue of their 9-18 September, culminating in a sweep in St. Louis? A pick one spot higher in the draft than they’d otherwise get?

Nope. The difference between finishing in that 4th spot, rather than the 5th (in addition to providing a tiebreaking edge in 2015! Exclamation points mean sincerity!), is relatively significant.

Setting aside the fact that the talent/reliability drop-off at the top of the draft can be extreme (see this past year, where there were a clear-cut top three picks, and then a second tier – perhaps next year, there will be four clear-cut picks before a drop-off?), there are financial reasons getting that higher pick/worse record will benefit the Cubs.

First of all, as you know, draft position is tied to draft slots, which generate the total pool of money a team can spend in the draft. In 2013, the difference between the 4th slot value and the 5th slot value was nearly $800,000. For rounds two through ten, the team picking 4th (versus 5th) would pick up another $60,000 in pool space. When you factor in the 5% allowable overage, that’s more than $900,000 that the 4th-worst team can spend in the next year’s draft, which will not be available to the 5th-worst team.

Secondly, the 4th-worst team will get about $270,000 more to spend internationally next year than the 5th-worst team. Not only is that plenty of money to find a quality player or two on the international market, but it’s additional pool space the Cubs could trade if they decide to unload some of their international slots. (Recall, thanks to a spend-crazy year, the Cubs will be subject to the harshest penalty next year: they cannot sign any individual player for more than $250,000. With an estimated $4 million to spend, the Cubs could spread it all around, or deal a slot or two for other talent.)

It’s appropriate, after yet another disappointing season at the big league level, that we’re discussing the marginal difference between the value of finishing with the 4th-worst record versus the 5th-worst. In some ways, it’s a reasonable way to button up the 2013 season.

But, hey. Might as well point out a silver lining when it’s there.

  • itzscott

    Since this was such an exciting and thrill packed season, 3rd would’ve been better as would 2nd or 1st.

    The only positive that came out of this season was the bragging rights that the Cubs are “better than” the White Sox.

  • macpete22

    Rosenthal reporting A.J. Hinch in running for managerial opening

    • itzscott

      Great, now there’s a guy that’ll inspire us all!…..

      “Hinch was fired from the Diamondbacks on July 1, 2010, following a 31-48 start to the 2010 season. Overall, Hinch compiled an 89-123 record in 212 games. His .420 winning percentage ranks as the second lowest in Diamondbacks history, just ahead of Al Pedrique.”

      • YourResidentJag


  • papabear

    unless they are trading their international money. I think the punishment for going as far over the cap this year as they did, is they won’t be allowed to sign international players.

    • On The Farm

      I think they can still sign international players, they are just not allowed to sign players over $250,000.

      • On The Farm

        Obvious statement, had I read that paragraph in which Brett already stated this.

        **Sigh** My bad..

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Have not the top draft picks been signing for their slotted value anyway? What players did the Cubs get last year by having a larger pool in the draft, that they could not have anyway?

    • On The Farm

      I am not sure, but weren’t they able to get 2 or 3 guys after the 10th round for overslot deals? I know Trevor Clifton was one of those guys they had to pay a little extra, and I feel like there was at least one more. Also, I think Haneman (sp?) was signed for more than his slot.

      • ssckelley

        Hannemann signed for over slot in the 3rd round and it cost an extra $50K to sign Will Remillard, a 19th round draft pick. But it cost the Cubs $275K over slot to sign Trevor Clifton, their 12th round pick. Some players do sign under slot, both Appel and Gray signed for under slot in last June’s draft.

  • Aaron

    The Cubs had to work hard getting that #4 overall pick in next year’s draft. Those Twins really played it tough down the stretch in losing alot of games. So did we. The Cubs lost 14 of their last 18 games, which comes out to a .222 winning percentage. It’s no surprise why Dale is gone, but those losses are on Theo and Jed as well. The team was annihilated in those last few weeks of the season, which as a fan was hard to watch. Time to set this ship right and start being a competitive team starting next season.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    Question, when was the last time a guy had 37 saves, a 2.78 ERA with a 1.005 WHIP, and he was left off the team’s playoff roster? And he is not hurt.
    Of course Rosenthal will probably save about 9 games in the playoffs and strike out about 25 guys in 9 innings. Only the effing Cardinals.

  • MichaelD

    Some of this money seems like double counting. Most of the monetary difference comes from the difference between the 4th and 5th picks. The 4th pick typically signs for more than the 5th, so the team ends up using the majority of its extra money on the 4th pick. In order to have a lot more money to spend later, you have to draft a more singable player with the 4th pick, which defeats much of the purpose of having the 4th pick.

    • Brett

      The idea that teams all use their full slot in the first round near the top of the Draft is not accurate. The Cubs have done it two years in a row, but that’s because of the two particular guys they took (and two is not a significant sample size). It’s possible that the “extra” money will, in fact, prove to be extra.

      • MichaelD

        But many of the teams who do not use their full slot value, do so because they made specific picks in order to save money. Teams who took players who fell slightly often had to go at slot or above (in the Cubs case). The Royals and Rockies were the only ones who saved a ton of cash in the 2-9 draft picks, and the Royals had a specific strategy involved taking a much more sign-able player.

      • Gutshot5820

        Brett, you are totally not making sense on this one. The extra slot money is there to pay the player his full value by the order of his draft pick. You gain by getting a higher draft pick (better talent) and the ability to pay the better talent his full value. You don’t get the better talent plus an additional $800K to play around with, which is what you are making it sound like. Sure, it’s not a zero some game and you can do some maneuvering to extract more value than if you didn’t have the 800K .

        • On The Farm

          I think he is alluding to the Astros who took a player and payed him under slot so they could pay their next player over slot. Also, By obtaining a higher draft pick, the overage amount you receive is higher. For instance, say the #1 pick is slotted 5 Million and the #5 pick is slotted 1 Million. With the 5% overage you are allowed to go the team with the #1 pick technically has 200K extra to spend on draft picks ([5M * .05] – [1M * .05]) = 200,000. That overage money can go a long way when you can get an extra 200K over teams a few slots below you.

          • MichaelD

            I think there is some monetary advantage to the higher pick, mostly on the overage amount as you describe. There is probably some ability to save some money through negotiations, particularly for the top pick. However, it is much smaller than the full $840,000 (including the 5% overage) for the 4th pick over the 5th pick.

          • Gutshot5820

            Well that is exactly what I think MichaelD was pointing out. You can save money by choosing a player that is less talented by under-slotting but you lose by getting lesser talent. So is there really any gain at all? Buxton should be a great example as to why there is far more value in taking the BPA, rather than trying to save money and spread it around on multiple picks. Either way you either sacrifice talent or money but you do not necessarily get “extra” money to spend.

            • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

              Buxton at the time he was taken second wasn’t the big upset. Most seen Houston taking Appel, which they ended up getting the next year. So, it isn’t like Buxton was thought of as the top pick in that draft. In fact, very few would have said that. They got Correa and Lance McCullers for their move. Then the following year they got Appel. Buxton may now be the best prospect in baseball, but that wasn’t the case in that draft. Houston got a top 10 prospect in baseball along with another top 50 player. I don’t think they will complain.

              • Gutshot5820

                I don’t follow the news as much as some of you on here. But I was under the impression that Buxton was the concensus #1 pick outside of Appel. I’m still willing to bet money on it, but too lazy to research it for you. Either way, it was noted that Houston did a good job with their strategy, but the argument here is that you are not getting “extra” money to spend in addition to the higher talent. The extra money is there to pay the higher talent. If you decide to go for a two for one strategy and under-slot to get an over-slot in later rounds, That’s all good, but you are not getting the better talent and additional money to spend,

  • gutshot5820

    Exactly what I was going to write. The value comes with the higher pick and the extra money is there to sign the player based on his slot value. The past two years the Cubs paid their first rounders full slot.

  • cubsin

    The Cubs went over slot on Bryant (1), Hannemann (3), Skulina (4), Burks (9), Clifton (12) and Remillard (19). They were also at or near slot value for their round 5-8 picks, instead of focusing on college seniors in rounds 5-10.

  • jaslhill

    Didn’t Bryant sign for exactly slot value? Or am I wrong?

  • cubfanincardinalland

    He did sign for full value at 6.7 million. Which kind of made me think that the pool money is kind of overrated. It seemed to me that they could have signed him for quite a bit less if they wanted to play hard ball in the negotiations and have money for other guys. You tell him that 5 million is the max, no way he turns it down and goes back to college for one year. Which tells me the Cubs determined it was not worth low balling your top pick to ration the pool money.

    • EvenBetterNewsV2.0

      He also signed for the highest bonus under the new CBA. So, I wouldn’t say pool money is overrated. That said, Theo and Jed had a pretty good idea of what it was going to take before they took him. Lowballing does nothing but piss off Scott Boras who happens to be an agent for a lot of top players. Not worth it to low ball this kid this year. We got who we wanted and signed everyone we set out to sign.

  • cubfanincardinalland

    My point is, if it such a strategic advantage to have a large pool, and spread the money around to sign the hard to sign type of player, why didn’t the Cubs do that last year? Seemed like the perfect situation to do that, the #2 slot, and a player who will be highly motivated to sign. They could have low balled him by a million or so, he certainly would have still turned pro.

  • wvcubsfan

    I think the point that everyone is missing is the 5% overage without penalty. Even if all of the players 1-10 sign exactly “at slot”. The team with the higher pick still has more money to spend on the rest of the draft

    • Gutshot5820

      The argument here is the value between the 4th and the fifth pick. If 800K is the difference, 5% is only 40K. That’s the difference of the overage without penalty between the 4th and the fifth pick.

      • wvcubsfan

        No it’s $840K

        For ease of numbers let’s say that the total value of picks for the 4th is 1500K and the value of the 5th pick is 700K. That means that the TOTAL value of the 4th pick is 1575, and the 5th is 735K. So the 4th pick has 840K more to “play with”. So even if the 4th and 5th go “at slot” the 4th pick has 75K to spread around for picks 10+ whereas the 5th pick only has 35K to spread around.

      • wvcubsfan

        really need to re-read before I post drunk, think we are saying the same thing

  • Fastball

    Sign the best players available. This I hope is the last damned time we have to be all proud of having a high Draft pick . Sign some players who dont suck and who arent castoffs from every other crap organization in baseball. Maybe they arent all crap but they are iur team and team is very bad. I pray they dont sign some other character from the boys club from Boston and San Diego. Thats pretty stale now. Come in ahead of tge Brewers and Reds next year.

  • Diamond Don

    So which players as of now are projected to be the top four picks in next year’s draft? Hopefully the Cubs can select a top pitcher!

  • Nick

    ” (see this past year, where there were a clear-cut top three picks, and then a second tier – perhaps next year, there will be four clear-cut picks before a drop-off?)”

    This year – Twins pick 4th – after clear-cut top three
    Next year – Twins pick 5th – after clear-cut top four??

    Ouch – as a Twins fan (Secondary to Cubs) this would sting a bit!