MLB Draft Slotting Would Harm Teams Like Pirates, Royals

The Kansas City Star has a great article on the spending that's being done in the draft by small-payroll teams like the Royals and Pirates, and how that might change next season.

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The article notes that from 2008 to 2011, the Pirates spent $4 million more on the draft than any other team. The Nationals are second, the Royals fourth, the Orioles fifth and the Rays sixth. One reason some of these teams are spending so much is that they pick earlier in the draft and have to dole out huge bonuses to players like Gerrit Cole, who the Pirates selected first overall last year. But there's also the fact that teams like the Pirates and Royals are being aggressive with hard-to-sign players in later rounds.

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But that system - which smaller-payroll teams are taking advantage of as they attempt to acquire top talent - might change in 2012, since some in baseball would like to introduce a hard-slotting system that would prevent teams from doling out huge bonuses. 

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One might argue that a hard-slotting system makes sense, in that baseball is paying too much money to kids who might not ever reach the majors. On the other hand, as Vlad at Bucs Dugout likes to point out, large bonuses are often the only way to lure multi-sport athletes away from football or other sports. For example, it's unlikely that the Royals' 2011 first-rounder Bubba Starling would have signed to play baseball, rather than quarterback with the Nebraska Cornhuskers, had a hard-slotting system been in place. Also, if Major League Baseball's concern is about saving money, a much more efficient way of doing so would be to curb some of the more obscene salaries large-payroll teams hand out to major-league players. (Of course, the players' union wouldn't be too happy about that.)

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Then there's this, from Scott Boras:

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"In some drafts, there are picks that are worth the highest order, and in other drafts, there are picks that are worth a lot less," Boras said. "So (baseball shouldn’t) create some falsity and take away that intellectual evaluation because talent doesn’t run uniformly every year; it runs in flows and streams."

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Right. Why should baseball pay roughly the same amount to different draft classes? Some classes are like the 2005 draft, which featured future stars like Ryan Braun, Troy Tulowitzki and Andrew McCutchen all over the place, and some are like the 2000 draft, in which the only top-10 pick who really made it was Adrian Gonzalez.

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Naturally, as a Pirates fan, I'm against a hard-slotting system. If baseball is serious about competitive balance, it shouldn't take away the most important area of spending where low-payroll teams can compete for star talent.

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