Why The MLB Draft Must Change
The 2009 Major League Baseball Draft, and the fallout after, should go down as as Exhibit A of why its system is flawed.
Nothing needs to be changed about the rules regarding anything before or during, those parts of the draft are fine. It's after the draft when not only the contract negotiations begin, but so do the problems.
For those who do not know how it works, Major League Baseball gives recommendations of what a draft pick should be paid based on what round they are drafted. Recommendations that teams do not necessarily have to follow and are more of a stepping stone than anything else. It also places ball clubs at a total disadvantage.
Draftees and their agents have practically all the leverage, particularly if the player has just graduated high school, or finished their junior year in college. If these players do not get the deal they want, they will not have any qualms about heading to the college they either committed to or played for.
Of course there is also the case of Stephen Strasburg, the consensus top prospect of this year's draft who has used up all his eligibility in college. He can threaten to play in an independent league for a year. It's not the minors, but it is another year to improve with the hopes of getting drafted by a team that is willing to pay the big bucks. All this also affects who teams pick.
If you watched the draft on MLB Network, the word that continually was spoken by all was " signability." Some teams, especially the smaller market teams with less money to spend, avoid certain players who had high demands in favor of prospects who may be lower on draft boards but would had a much higher chance of inking a deal.
The Washington Nationals, who drafted Strasburg this year despite the talk of record demands by super-agent Scott Boras, last year failed to sign their top 10 pick in Missou pitcher Aaron Crow. Crow went on to play in an independent league for a year and was drafted again in the first round this year, though as of publication he still has not signed.
So one year after failing to sign their first round pick, baseball's worst team took a chance by drafting Strasburg, knowing of the demands. In a game where development in the affiliates, especially pitching, is so key, it is a huge disadvantage to the Nationals and other clubs who struggle to sign high talent.
Perhaps baseball should take a page out of the NBA's playbook. Not the page that with the so called "one and done rule," but the chapter of the Collective Bargaining Agreement that lays out the rules for rookie wages.
After an NBA franchise drafts a player, the contract must pay the player within a certain range specified by the league, dependant on where in the draft the player was taken. The salary can be 20 percent higher or lower than the amount, but no more and no less.
The CBA even specifies the number of years that a rookie contract has to guarantee, as well as the options that must accompany those guaranteed years.
One other play from the NBA that could prove valuable would be the idea of entering the draft a choice that would bar those drafted from returning or going on to school. This would remove the enormous leverage against the ball clubs and allow for picks to be signed in a much quicker, less hostile fashion.
Until the current "recommendations" are replaced by actual rules, the advantage will always be to the players and the higher income teams. The lack of parity is not just visible in the absence of a salary cap in baseball, but it is also prevalent all the way down to the draft level, before players even become professionals.
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