Fixing the draft

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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)

Report: Mark Trumbo signs three-year, $37.5 million contract with Orioles

TORONTO, ON - OCTOBER 04:  Mark Trumbo #45 of the Baltimore Orioles runs the bases after hitting a two-run home run in the fourth inning against the Toronto Blue Jays during the American League Wild Card game at Rogers Centre on October 4, 2016 in Toronto, Canada.  (Photo by Vaughn Ridley/Getty Images)
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Update #2 (6:21 PM EST): Make that $37.5 million, per Heyman.

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Update (6:02 PM EST): The deal is for “around” $37 million with deferrals that lower the present-day value, per Jeff Passan of Yahoo Sports.

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Jon Heyman of FanRag Sports reports that free agent 1B/OF Mark Trumbo is close to a deal with the Orioles. He first reported that the two sides were back in touch earlier on Thursday afternoon. According to Ken Rosenthal of FOX Sports, the deal is expected to be for three years and under $40 million.

Trumbo’s market hasn’t developed as he expected. The slugger turned down the Orioles’ $17.2 million qualifying offer back in November. Then the Orioles reportedly made a four-year contract offer to him in December but pulled it off the table. Most recently, a report indicated that Trumbo lowered his expectations to a three-year deal in the $40-50 million range.

Trumbo, 31, led the majors with 47 homers for the Orioles this past season. He also hit a solid .256/.316/.433 with 108 RBI in 667 plate appearances. With Trumbo back in the fold and some slight offensive upgrades made, the Orioles figure to have a formidable offense in 2017.

Astros avoid arbitration with Mike Fiers

SEATTLE, WA - SEPTEMBER 17: Starting pitcher Mike Fiers #54 of the Houston Astros walks to the dugout after pitching an inning during a game against the Seattle Mariners at Safeco Field on September 17, 2016 in Seattle, Washington. The Astros won the game 2-1. (Photo by Stephen Brashear/Getty Images)
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The Astros avoided arbitration with pitcher Mike Fiers, agreeing on a $3.45 million salary for the 2017 season, per Jake Kaplan of the Houston Chronicle. The right-hander was in his first of three years of arbitration eligibility.

Fiers, 31, made 30 starts and one relief appearance for the Astros in 2016. He finished the year with a 4.48 ERA and a 134/42 K/BB ratio in 168 2/3 innings.

Fiers had a much better showing in 2015 as well as in limited action in 2014, so the Astros are hoping he rediscovers that effectiveness going forward. He’ll slot into the back of the starting rotation.