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2016 MLB Draft Primer: Bonus Pool, Slot Values, Penalties, Etc.

Cubs Minor Leagues and Prospects

draft 2016[If you’re looking for information on the logistics of this year’s Draft – the timing, the coverage, the order, etc. – you can find it here in the first installation of the Draft Primer.]

The 2016 MLB Draft starts today – although, the Cubs won’t make a pick until the third round on Friday – and there are some mechanical aspects of the signing process that impact the way the draft selection process will play out.

Although there’s a new CBA coming after this season, the 2012 iteration may have changed everything you knew about draft strategy and protocol. Given how deeply we’ve tracked the Cubs’ drafts over the past few years, you probably have the gist of the system, by now. But to the extent you don’t – bonus pools, and slots, and penalties, and what-have-you – a good starting point is a primer Brett wrote a couple years ago. In case you don’t want the in-depth look and just want to know the highlights, I’ll lay it out here, as well.

The Bonus Pool

Teams are assigned a “pool” of dollars that they can use to sign players selected within the first 10 rounds of the Draft. The pool is based on the “slot” value of each of the team’s picks (each pick in the Draft is given a certain value, and each of a team’s picks’ values are added up to determine the pool amount).


The Slot Values

The individual slot values for the first ten picks are as follows:

1. Philadelphia Phillies – $9,015,000
2. Cincinnati Reds – $7,762,900
3. Atlanta Braves – $6,510,800
4.Colorado Rockies – $5,258,700
5.Milwaukee Brewers – $4,382,200
6. Oakland Athletics – $4,069, 200
7. Miami Marlins – $3,756,300
8. San Diego Padres – $3,630,900
9. Detroit Tigers – $3,505,800
10. Chicago White Sox – $3,380,600

As you can see, it’s a very swift decline after the top handful picks, which could assist those teams at the top in leveraging some dollars they save “under slot” on their top pick to sign “over slot” types later in the Draft.

For comparison’s sake, the slot value for the Cubs’ first overall pick (again, in the third round) is just a measly $573,900 (or just $10,000 more than the Cardinals’ fifth pick in the draft). Yikes. The rest of the Cubs picks have the following bonus pools:

  • 4th Round (Pick 134): $ 429,700
  • 5th Round (Pick 164): $ 321,800
  • 6th Round (Pick 194): $241,000
  • 7th Round (Pick 224): $186,000
  • 8th Round (Pick 254): $173,800
  • 9th Round (Pick 284): $162,300
  • 10th Round (Pick 314): $156,600

Grand Total First Ten Rounds: $2,245,100 (smallest in baseball)


The Penalties

Those bonus pools and slot values matter because if a team exceeds its bonus pool, it is subject to penalties. And note, if a team fails to sign a player, the slot value from that pick is removed from the bonus pool. This is why you’ll see teams heavily taking college seniors in the 6 to 10 round range: the team can sign those players for $10,000, and “save” money to be applied elsewhere in the Draft.

Also note that picks after the 10th round have no slot value (and you don’t lose any bonus pool money for failing to sign them), but any amount given to them in excess of $100,000 counts against the bonus pool.


Any team that exceeds its pool by 0 to 5% must pay a 75% tax on the amount of the overage. Any team that exceeds its pool by more than 5% but less than 10% must pay a 75% tax on the amount of the overage AND loses a first round draft pick next year. Any team that exceeds its pool by more than 10% but less than 15% must pay a 100% tax on the amount of the overage AND loses a first round draft pick next year AND loses a second round draft pick next year. Any team that exceeds its pool by more than 15% must pay a 100% tax on the amount of the overage AND lose a first round draft pick in each of the next TWO drafts.


Given that penalty structure, it was unsurprising to see the Cubs gladly exceed their pool the last three years, but by an amount less than 5% over the pool. Assuming they’re willing to pay the tax again this year (they will be), you can think of the Cubs’ bonus pool as closer to $2,357,355 rather than $2,245,100. The deadline for selected players to sign is July 15.

For more on each individual slot value and total bonus pools for every team, visit this article at Baseball America.

And for more on the Cubs’ draft, check out the latest draft notes.


Michael Cerami

Michael Cerami is a Writer at Bleacher Nation, and you can find him on Twitter at @Michael_Cerami.