MLB Eliminates 35 Rounds of Upcoming Draft Because it Hates Minor Leaguers

MINNEAPOLIS, MN – JUNE 17: Chief Baseball Officer Derek Falvey of the Minnesota Twins holds up a jersey with number one overall draft pick Royce Lewis and agent Scott Boras at a press conference on June 17, 2017 at Target Field in Minneapolis, Minnesota. (Photo by Hannah Foslien/Getty Images)

The MLB is stripping their 2019 draft of its last 35 rounds. Teams will now draft just 5 rounds worth of players, in the upcoming June draft. The MLB is calling it a cost-saving measure among the coronavirus pandemic, while taking no time to enact a new power given to them in CBA agreements consummated just over a month ago.

It’s been over 24 hours since Ernest Dove broke this massive piece of sports news and we’re going on hour 16 since Jeff Passan broke it through ESPN… I’m now on hour-3 of SportsCenter re-runs though this morning, and I haven’t heard it mentioned yet…

The MLB waited until Friday’s late-afternoon news cycle was over before they sent out the release announcing this change. Now, ESPN is too busy talking about UFC and NBA making a comeback amid coronavirus and that’s how you bury a controversial story.

From 10,000 feet, it does look like MLB teams spend a lot of money on the draft… because they do. The Twins were alotted nearly $10 million to spend last season, through the first 10 rounds (12th in MLB), and they spent $11.5M total (according to what I tallied from this post at The Arizona Diamondbacks were alotted $16 million for their first 10 rounds, alone.

But you don’t have enough lipstick to make this pig look pretty… and player agents around the MLB are pissed… like they should be (via Associated Press):

“Particularly given the negligible economic impact to what’s already a cheap acquisition cost, this approach is is grossly shortsighted, said agent Jeff Berry, co-head of CAA Baseball. “To drastically reduce opportunity and talent and talent pools, it stunts growth and diversity at all levels and is really a self-inflicted sabotage of the long-term health and popularity of the game.”

Associated Press

“You can’t afford to live when you sign for $20,000 in the minor leagues,” agent Scott Boras said. “They also may develop in college to be first rounders, which is the category we’re looking for. So so it gives you more opportunity to have more first rounders.”

Berry said the decision was part of “furtherance down that slippery slope of diminishing the value and the importance of players” and linked it to other moves players decry and to the Houston Astros’ cheating scandal.

“For any ownership group that supports this course of action as advisable or, frankly, is so cash-strapped that this mid-six-figure savings is a financial necessity, they should do everyone a favor, including their fellow owners, and sell their franchises,” he said. “Does anyone think it’s that big of an ethical jump from hijacking the draft, tanking and service manipulation to hidden cameras and banging on trash cans? All those behaviors and attitudes, they’re not analytic or intelligent or efficient, they’re just unethical, and they reveal a lack of respect for players and fans.”

Associated Press

When you pull the curtain back, arguments for why this move makes sense…. crumble quickly. I’m going to use the Twins’ 2019 numbers again. This isn’t their fault. It’s just easier to quantify when looking at one team.

As mentioned briefly above, MLB teams are allotted a spending cap for the draft that is dictated by where their picks sit through the first 10 rounds. After round 10, teams are no longer held to a max, but any signing bonus given to an individual player, that is over $120K after round-10, is counted against the total draft pool meant for earlier picks.

The rule is in place for competetive balance reasons, so big-money teams don’t buy all of the best players in the beginning of each draft. It also sets a benchmark for smaller market teams, who would have to explain to fans why they aren’t spending to the cap they are allotted.

The Twins alotted draft pool last season was $9.9M and that will stay the same this year (another coronavirus savings measure). That’s 86% of their total spent, which (again) was $11.5M. So, the Twins are saving under $2M with this decision, but won’t have the flexibility to move around the draft and use that money to its highest potential (last year they used alotted draft pool money to sign 14 players instead of 10 – 11 players in first 10 rounds + 3 players who signed bonuses worth over $120K).

Really, this change might benefit cheap and lazy franchises, Everyone will still need players to fill their minor league system. So… they will sign as many players as they can for the $20K max bonus, allotted to undrafted players for this new system. How much of that eats into an already minimul savings?

Meanwhile, hundreds of lives will be completely thrown off-track by this move. After round-5 last year, the Twins issued 14 signing bonuses to draftees that were over $50K each. That’s a decent full-year’s salary for a lot of people in rural America. Some got bonuses that would make anybody blush, including a $493K signing bonus for 18th-round-pick, Edouard Julien, in order to pull him away from Auburn in the 18th round.

With that $20K max bonus for anybody who isn’t selected in this shortened draft, that’s all dead. There’s all kinds of fallout from this stupidity, including a lot of good young baseball players who will now be bent over by a bunch of billionaires or have to choose another option on advancing their careers.

I completely understand the need for all professional leagues and teams to make cuts during this pandemic… but how much are MLB teams really saving by making this move? It sure seems like the opportunity cost of these changes will be MUCH greater than the money anyone is saving.

This is just another move by the MLB to cut costs (for whatever reason) throughout the minor leagues, where almost everyone is already paid pennies on the dollar and must enjoy long bus rides, in order to qualify as a player. Before this is over, the MLB will also use this to cut minor league affiliates (just watch). They’ll blame coronavirus but they were going to do it anyway, ever since being pressured into slightly raising minor league salaries last offseason.

Eric Strack | Minnesota Sports Fan

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