Jayson Stark at ESPN wrote a rather idiotic article yesterday complaining about the draft. It wasn’t idiotic because the draft is perfect or anything — it’s not — but because all it complained about was the sheer amount of money teams spend on the draft, quoting no one but anonymous people connected with baseball ownership (other reasons why his article was stupid can be read here).
Of course those guys hate spending money in the draft. If they could, they’d pay draftees in lumps of coal and bowls of gruel. What Stark never mentions, however, is that overall, the draft is like a bargain basement for teams looking to acquire talent.
While Stephen Strasburg’s $15 million gets all the headlines, overall, teams will spend around $180 million in signing bonuses for draftees this year. That amounts to $6 million per team. That $6 million gets each team dozens and dozens of players the team controls for a minimum of six years a piece. Even if only one or two of those players become major leaguers, the teams have more than gotten their money’s worth.
In light of this, the problem with the draft isn’t the amount of money teams are spending. It’s the particular players at the very top on whom that money is spent. Ideally you want the worst teams to take the best players, rendering signability a non-issue. This wasn’t a huge problem this year (as Stark’s colleague Peter Gammons notes), but it has been in the past.
Perhaps some sort of slotting system makes sense to accomplish that (and today the New York Times talks about the forms that could take). Simply complaining about what the top draftees are making, however, accomplishes very little.
(thanks to reader DonCoburleone for the data on overall draft expenditures)