Last night’s report from the AP was a scary one: MLB and the players are considering cancelling the draft and IFA this year as a way to preserve cash that might otherwise be distributed to the players and other employees in the wake of anticipated significant revenue shortfalls.
I took a little time last night and this morning to mull. I’m open to more information coming out and evolving my thinking, but this is where I land right now. I don’t think cancelling this year’s draft is the right move at this time.
My initial question about cancelling the draft – if it’s just an issue of money, and not a question of safety or public health – is whether $13.3 million per club is going to make a significant enough dent relative to the incredible disruption this would cause in the talent flow into the sport. Genuinely, I get that MLB clubs are going to get hammered on the revenue side (most businesses are). But I also don’t want to see them collectively get penny-wise, pound-foolish when it comes to the long-term vitality of the sport.
To be sure, going forward with the draft as scheduled this year (or even slightly delayed) will almost certainly mean teams will have to draft with dramatically less information about players than usual. Yes, that’s problematic. But, right now, that strikes me as a pretty limited “problem” compared to everything else the sport is dealing with.
I also wonder if, for other reasons, it’s just a bad idea to muck with this year’s draft too much.
Baseball America argues that not only should the draft proceed, it should not even be delayed this year. Read the article for the full run-down, but the gist is that a delay causes all kinds of problems in realistic preparation schedules for next year’s draft for MLB organizations. Moreover, because the NCAA announced that players who lost their seasons could have another year of eligibility, you could have serious roster crunches on college teams that not only are retaining players they thought would be drafted, but also would be adding freshman, none of whom, were drafted. You’re turning a short-term, containable disruption into a much longer-term, much more uncertain one.
Also? This year’s calendar and revenue and schedule and, yes, draft, have already been impacted. There’s no stopping that now. But by cancelling this year’s draft and trying to smush it together with next year’s – as Ken Rosenthal reports has been considered – turns a one-year problem into a guaranteed two-year problem. You’re impacting two draft classes’ worth of players instead of just one.
One more thing. Although this is a lesser consideration, it feels like it’s worth mentioning: at a time when so much of the sporting world literally cannot proceed as planned, the MLB Draft is a rare thing that kinda-sorta can proceed as planned. Maybe some in the sporting world need that? Maybe the young players would appreciate it? Maybe fans and front office members and scouts would, too?
As with anything COVID-19, there are only bad choices here. I’m really not sure cancelling the draft is the better bad choice, though.
It’s clear from Rosenthal’s piece that nothing has been decided yet, but it is equally clear that the more MLB games that are lost this year (and the more games that cannot have fans in attendance, among games that are ultimately played), the more likely it is that the draft and amateur spending could wind up a sacrifice on the alter of spreading around what money is available to players and employees already in the sport.