Thursday, October 27, 2011

Slotting, I'm All For It

According to this article cited on the Lohud blog the last major issue in the MLB labor negotiations is about slotting in the first year players draft. Slotting is basically a system where there is a fixed signing bonus attributed to each round of the draft so that all players drafted in that round would receive the same bonus. A couple years ago I wrote about this topic, and still feel the same way: I'm all for it. Yes, small market teams receive money from MLB because of revenue sharing, and they can use this money to sign players. But the truth is, these small market teams aren't going to compete in the free agent market. As a result, they need to rely heavily on the draft. Some will suggest that small market teams can also go the trade route to build their teams, but this won't work unless they have quality prospects to trade. Again, it all goes back to the draft. So what happens when players like Stephen Strasburg, Rick Porcello, or even Andrew Brackman become available in the draft? They make multi-million dollar contracts without even having played a single game in the major leagues. And since some small market teams know that top prospects are going to demand a lot of money, they'll often times skip them in the draft for a lesser talent knowing that they won't be able to afford them. As a result, the teams that need the draft the most, don't benefit from their higher draft pick. And don't get me wrong, guys like Strasburg and Porcello or legitimate big league talents. But they should not receive veteran free agent money before proving they can play at the big league level. Because there is no salary cap, those guys will see big contracts in their future, but they should have to earn them with their production in the majors, not their production in college ball. In this way, slotting would make the draft do what it should do: give the best pick of prospects to the crappiest teams.

The one concession MLB should make if they haven't already is make an MLB scholarship fund available to players drafted out of high school and junior college. The idea is that for players drafted lower in the draft, their signing bonuses are typically not life changing. If they devote 4-5 years of their lives to playing minor league ball (where the salaries are not life changing either), and they never make it to the majors, it would be good for them to have the option to go back to school with a paid scholarship from MLB. I just think of it from the players perspective. You sign lower in the draft as a high school player, you play a number of years in the minor leagues, get injured or released for whatever reason, your big league dreams are no longer available to you, and now what options do you have? You've committed the opening years of your adult life to a career that is now unavailable to you. An MLB scholarship would be a nice way to take care of players in this position.

What do you all think? Are you for slotting? Against it?

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