Tuesday, October 27, 2009

A future slot-system? Where does the money go?

Almost everyone agrees that the current draft system is a mess. Almost nobody agrees on how to fix it.

Bud Selig recently voiced strongly his opinion that a strict slotting system is needed.

"That's one that there is no debate in my mind," Selig said while speaking on ESPN's "Mike and Mike Show." "We need an international draft, and we need slotting."

For those not privy to the situation, the MLB currently provides slot "recommendations" for each pick in the top rounds of the draft, but teams are free to exceed these recommendations. The teams that have the most monopoly money often do so.

To use an example from the real world, this is sort of like having recommended speed limits for our highways. Law enforcement officials would be unable to enforce these limits. You think a 17 year old with a fast car is going to obey these recommendations? Of course not, and the same thing applies to the current draft system. Some owners think they're driving on the autobahn, while others exercise more restraint.

Prior to drafting prospects, teams try to assess a player's signability. A large part of this equation is how much money a kid wants. Many kids will say they will sign for slot, but some top prospects throw out exorbitant numbers. This places them at prices that small-market teams can't afford. The argument can then be made that teams with more money are able to acquire more talented players on a more regular basis.

If equity in the game is a goal, and I'm not completely sure that is the goal, then a strict slotting system needs to be instituted. A system not unlike the NBA's draft is envisioned, in which hard numbers are in place for each pick.

I'm not a huge proponent of this system, but I'm also not completely opposed to it. I think huge signing bonuses can be dangerous. It sets up a system in which some players, because of the money invested in them, are too big to fail, just like some of our banks. Instead of the best players with the best numbers reaching the big leagues, it sets up a situation in which the players with the most money invested in them reach the big leagues. They get bailed out time after time and are virtually guaranteed a call-up.

The main question I have regarding this system is this: What happens to the money saved? Does it go to the owner's pocketbook? Does it go to adding on another $1 million to the big league payroll? Or does it get invested back in the minor leagues?

This would seem like a simple solution to improving conditions for minor league players. Any money saved on reigning in bonuses could be allocated to a small salary increase for minor leaguers, or simply for paying the rent of minor leaguers. Maybe even, heaven forbid, they could pay the players during spring training or instructional leagues.

Despite Selig's wishes, the likelihood of a strict slotting system still seems fairly low. The owners will no doubt push for this in the next CBA, which ends in 2011, but there will be resistance from the MLBPA. One thing is for sure. The likelihood of a slotting system is certainly higher than the likelihood of minor league salaries actually increasing.


Debbie said...

What a confusing, bizarre system! As a baseball fan, I'd much rather see lower signing bonuses and higher salaries for minor leaguers. Reminds me of the huge advances given to a few blockbuster authors or celebrities. Not fair.

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