From B.J. Rains of FOX Sports Midwest comes the shot below of Cardinals starters Kyle Lohse and Jake Westbrook preparing for a father-son game Sunday morning at Busch Stadium. Happy Dad’s Day from HBT.
Jon Morosi of MLB Network and FOX Sports reports that the MLB draft has a new program in which the top-50 pitching prospects are asked to undergo a voluntary pre-draft MRI on their throwing arm. At first glance, it seems reasonable because, hey, pitchers are injury-prone and players sometimes hide injuries. It would feel bad if my favorite team drafted a lemon!
The reality is that this is just another player-unfriendly rule that shifts financial risk away from the owners and onto the players. The players, in this case, are often not wealthy and are about to begin life in the minor leagues where they earn less than $8,000 per year. Signing bonuses help alleviate some of the immediate financial discomfort of minor league life.
The pre-draft MRI is “voluntary” with quotes around it. Choosing not to undergo the MRI will only give prospective teams more reason to be skeptical of one’s durability. It’s a lot like those voluntary workouts in football that aren’t so voluntary due to superior and peer pressure. You don’t show up, you’re lazy, entitled, a bad teammate, etc. In this case, a pitching prospect refuses to undergo the MRI, it’s because he’s hiding an injury.
Ian Anderson was the first pitcher taken off the board in the 2016 draft, going to the Braves at No. 3. He got a $4 million signing bonus. Let’s say this new MRI program had already been instituted and Anderson refused, or something came up that caused the Braves to change their minds. Anderson’s draft stock falls, let’s say to 21 where the Blue Jays took T.J. Zeuch with a $2.175 million signing bonus. Falling 18 spots in this case costs Anderson about $2 million, perhaps more because he loses a lot of negotiating leverage. Maybe he falls further, even to the second round.
In a column for FanGraphs nearly two years ago, Nathaniel Grow showed that, as a percentage of total league revenues, player salaries have been declining since the early 2000’s. In 2002, player salaries made up 56 percent of league revenues. In 2014, it was only 38 percent.
In isolation, the MRI program isn’t a big deal. The injured player loses stock, but another player moves up to take his place and earns a bit more money. As part of the bigger picture, however, this is part of an ongoing trend in which owners abdicate financial risk and push it all onto the players. The new collective bargaining agreement, for example, capped international signings at $5-6 million per team per year. That removes any incentive for overseas stars like Shohei Otani from coming over to play Major League Baseball. If he wanted to anyway, he would make much less money than he otherwise would on an open market. The amateur draft itself is almost entirely risk-avoidant for owners and it’s terrible for the players because they, too, would earn much more on an open market. And let’s not forget how owners have fought tooth-and-nail to keep minor league salaries suppressed.
Diamondbacks owner Ken Kendrick once paid $2.8 million for the Honus Wagner T-206 baseball card. Let’s not act like these owners can’t afford to shoulder the risk on young pitchers.
EDIT (4:40 PM EST): As I’ve seen others mention it, it’s worth bringing up the Astros/Brady Aiken issue. The Astros took him first in the 2014 draft, but they took issue with his elbow health. The two sides had agreed to a $6.5 million signing bonus, but the Astros wanted to reduce it to $5 million as a result. Aiken didn’t end up signing with the Astros. He underwent Tommy John surgery and was later selected by the Indians 17th overall in the first round of the 2015 draft. He got a $2,513,280 signing bonus.
OXON HILL, MD — The 2016 Winter Meetings are over. As usual, there was still no shortage of excitement this year. More trades than we’ve seen in the past even if there are still a lot of free agents on the market. Whatever the case, it should make the rest of December a bit less sleepy than it normally is.
Let’s look back at what went down here at National Harbor this week:
- Bud Selig was elected to the Hall of Fame. In our view, his induction is a disgrace. As is his continued lying about what he knew and when he knew it about steroids.
- Aroldis Chapman signed a monster deal, though it’s questionable whether it was a good deal.
- The Nationals acquired Adam Eaton from the White Sox. It was definitely a good deal. For the White Sox.
- Bryce Harper reportedly wants the biggest deal in baseball history.
- Chris Sale was sold to the Red Sox for a major, major return.
- Rays manager Kevin Cash was a real cut-up when it came to Sale landing on a division rival.
- The Red Sox got Mitch Moreland too.
- Oh, and Tyler Thronburg.
- No one wants to sign Edwin Encarnacion, it seems.
- The Rockies gave up a lot of money and a top pick for Ian Desmond for some reason.
- The Royals 2014-15 run seems miles away now that they’re unloading its heroes.
- The Dodgers made Rich Hill rich.
- The Marlins signed A.J. Ellis. No word on whether he will receive the outsized level of attention in Miami that he got in L.A.
- The Mariners landed a starter from the Giants.
- The Jays landed Steve Pearce.
- The Yankees take a Holliday.
- The late Bill King, who called A’s games for a quarter century, won the Frick Award
- The still present Claire Smith became the first woman to win the Spink Award.
- The Marlins locked up Locke.
- MLB showed playoff teams the money.
- MLB is depriving players of meal money.
- MLB is depriving international free agents of a lot of money.
- MiLB is going to work hard to continue to deprive minor leaguers money.
- No one is going to be showing Shoehi the money.
- Under Armour showed MLB the money and now MLB will show the Under Armour logo on the front of every uniform.
- You had better show the Cubs a lot of money if you want to buy tickets to their games next year.
- Carlos Gomez is staying in Texas.
- Wilson Ramos will recover from knee surgery in Tampa Bay.
- A man whose Twitter handle brags that he can only throw 88 m.p.h. is now a pitching strategist.
- Pablo Sandoval is in The Best Shape of His Life.
- Tim Tebow will likely play in big league spring training games.
- Hall of Fame ballots will be public next year.
- The Yankees will show Derek Jeter some RE2PECT next May.
- Moises Alou simply won’t leave Steve Bartman alone.
- Jung Ho Kang has a serious alcohol problem, it seems.
- Jeff Mathis is going to play forever.
- Jimmy Rollins wants to play for at least another season.
- John Farrell will manage the Red Sox for at least another two seasons.
- Thirty big leaguers committed to the World Baseball Classic.
- And, finally, for the fourth straight year, we told you which managers lead the league in raw, unadulterated beefcake.
Well, that certainly was a lot! I hope our coverage was useful for you as baseball buzzed through its most frantic week of the offseason. And I hope you continue coming back here to keep abreast of everything happening in Major League Baseball.
Now, get me to an airport and back home.