Kiley McDaniel of ESPN reports that Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association “have the framework of an agreement” regarding what to do with the MLB Draft. And it’s a pretty atrocious agreement.
Per his report, the draft would occur sometime in July and would be reduced to as few as five rounds, but no more than ten. What’s more, draftees would be forced to defer 90% of their bonuses. They’d get 10% up front, with 45% paid in July of 2021 and the remaining 45% paid in July 2022. McDaniel ads that a maximum bonus for un-drafted players would be imposed as well, with $10,000 being the number being discussed.
This makes absolutely no logical sense once a moment’s worth of context is taken into account.
The 2019 draft was 40 rounds long. The average bonus pool for each MLB team in 2019 was $8,882,680, with a high of around $16 million for the Diamondbacks to a low of $4.78 million for the Red Sox. That was for the entire draft. Which means that MLB teams are, with apparent MLBPA agreement, (a) reducing the length of the draft and, presumably the amount of the pools, by 75%; and are (b) kicking 90% of that cost — roughly 25% of the cost of a middle reliever or a moderately decent infielder — down the road two years as a means of cost savings.
These measures bear no reasonable connection to the current crisis. As we have noted over and over again, MLB cash flow is primarily dependent upon long-term TV deals and partnerships, not ticket sales. As such, though the lost games this year will cause some financial pain for the league, will not be debilitating. THat’s especially true when you take into account the fact that teams are not paying major league or minor league players during those lost games due to the existence of a national emergency. That aside, cutting draft expenditures by a couple of million dollars per team is not going to make the difference between a team’s viability and inviability.
So why do it? I suspect part of this is motivated by MLB’s longstanding efforts to smash spending on amateur talent. There’s a reason it sought and obtained a cap on draftee bonuses several years ago. There’s also a reason the MLBPA gave it to them willingly: they thought the savings would be passed along to veteran players. Welp, that didn’t work, did it? Maybe they think it’ll happen this time? Or, perhaps, this is the cost MLBPA is paying — with amateur players’ money — in order to get those favorable service time terms that were revealed the other day.
It’s probably also worth wondering what this means for Major League Baseball’s efforts to contract dozens of minor league teams. Is it not reasonable to assume that MLB would claim that, “hey, since we don’t have as many minor leaguers anymore, we don’t need all these teams?” I could totally see that happening.
If McDaniel’s report is accurate and this goes into effect, it would represent the worst kind of base opportunism on the part of Major League Baseball and yet another example of the MLBPA selling out non-members in order to benefit its membership. It would also, inevitably, cause a great many amateur athletes who have options in other sports to move away from baseball and focus on football or basketball, seeing as though Major League Baseball is hostile to the idea of increasing the number of players who might choose to make the game their career.
This stinks to High Heavens.