For a whole host of reasons, tonight’s revelation really sucks. The MLB Draft is going to shrink as much as it possibly can.
There remains a significant divide within the team side on the draft. A majority of front offices were pushing for a longer draft, recognizing the value reaped even in later rounds can be immense. Pushback to keep the draft as short as possible from some owners was strong.
— Jeff Passan (@JeffPassan) May 8, 2020
The players rejected the owners’ proposal of a 10-round draft (with severe spending restrictions in rounds 6 through 10, and among undrafted players), so it sounds like the league simply decided to go with the most extreme version they were permitted under the interim agreement this year. ESPN previously reported that a five-round draft was expected, and now, here you go.
Like I said, it sucks.
With so few players selected and signed, the ability to reduce minor league teams next year to just 120 (from 162) is now all but assured, and the inflow of talent into the sport will be constricted severely for at least one year. And without much in the way of scouting this year, my guess is it’s an extremely college-heavy draft, with an inordinate volume of high schoolers heading to college, intending to honor scholarships at schools that will also have a ton of seniors returning that they previously expected would be draft. It’s going to be an utter mess (to say nothing of the fact that college football and basketball might not generate much revenue this year, which could even further reduce money going to college baseball for those scholarships … it’s scary to think about how many players could be pushed out of the sport in the next 12 months).
Hey, but what about the undrafted players? Surely they can all still sign, right? Well, yeah, but for a maximum $20,000 bonus? The ability to lure a talented young athlete is going to be about zero (“Don’t bother playing our sport,” baseball tells amateurs).
More from our previous writeup on this topic:
What’s most discouraging about an MLB decision that will limit its own talent pool? We know this is a financial decision, and yet look at the projected savings, per BA:
“A five-round draft would save teams $29.58 million in bonuses when compared to a 10-round draft (assuming every team spent the entirety of their bonus pool). Those savings will not really accrue until 2021 and 2022, as the new draft rules include universal bonus deferments for all but $100,000 of signing bonuses for all draftees. The maximum a team would spend in 2020 for taking the draft from six to 10 rounds would be $500,000.”
At most, cutting from 10 rounds to 5 rounds will save the average MLB team under $1 million (money which is not *lost*, mind you, it is simply spent on the rights to players who could wind up worth 10x that amount). And it’s not even $1 million immediately, it’s $1 million spread over the next two years.
I understand that every dollar saved right now is a dollar that could theoretically go toward keeping other employees on staff, so I don’t want to diminish the seriousness of a million dollars. But when you’re talking about the lifeblood of your sport? WTF. It’s asinine. I guarantee your scouts and player development people would rather have 10 rounds, so what does that tell you?
The BA piece has much more on the ramifications of these draft changes – which are not final, but “expected” – including tons of high schoolers not drafted, how teams will try to game undrafted free agents (there’s a hard cap on bonuses, but what if you raise minor league pay across the board?), how much MLB has already saved by deferring payments this year to top picks, and how teams will save in the draft by telling kids that their bonuses will drop dramatically if they go undrafted so they better agree right now at $X. The whole thing just feels really unfortunate and not entirely about temporary measures during a pandemic.