The Pirates are still negotiating a contract with this year’s no. 8 pick (and formerly presumed-no. 1) Mark Appel. The problem is that, under the new slotting system, Appel is only recommended to receive $2.9 million, and can only receive up to $3.8 million before incurring penalties, including loss of a top draft pick in 2013. The Nationals are apparently facing similar issues with no. 16 pick Lucas Giolito.*
*On a non-draft issue, this becomes really interesting when considering both teams have winning records, and may be drafting in the second half of the first round next year. Both guys were considered as top picks, and next year isn’t supposed to be that much stronger than this year’s draft. Obviously, the ideal situation is to keep your first draft pick both years, but if that becomes out of the question? Do you take the (maybe) best guy this year and take no one next year? Granted, the deadline to sign draft picks is July 13, so both teams have some time. In the hypothetical situation, though? I’d say go for it.
In any case, this brought up some interesting comments at Hardball Talk...against the draft picks. And really, none of the arguments are that uncommon. But they do get rather annoying.
First, I do think this new Collective Bargaining Agreement move was rather stupid. It isn’t exactly killing the draft, but it did make it much harder for rebuilding teams to do so through the draft (which is kind of the point of the draft). Under the old system, teams that couldn’t dump $25 million dollars a year on an A-Rod or a Pujols could instead spend that money over several years and come up with a James Shield, Evan Longoria, David Price, Carl Crawford, B.J. Upton, and so on, and compete anyway. Now? If the Yankees/Red Sox/Angels/whoever get better draft positions than you, they not only get to spend that $25 million per year on the big free agent, they also get to invest more money into the draft than you. That just seems a little silly.
On top of that, though, is the argument that the players being draft haven’t earned it. The players had to stand out against their peers, didn’t they? Plenty of baseball people determined, through plenty of methods of analysis, that these 30 or so first-rounders where the best options their team had to continue success into the future. The process is by no means flawless, but it’s not like these players were randomly anointed at birth as first overall picks. They did have to work to get to that point.
And it’s not like the payouts for top draft picks are at all insane. To use two recent top picks as reference, Stephen Strasburg got a four year, $15 million bonus, and Bryce Harper signed a seven year, $18.9. That seems like a lot...but if either of them went on the free agent market today, do you think they’d get that much? Heck, just using the estimated $5 million per Win Above Replacement going rate on the free agent market, Harper has been worth $8 million, and Strasburg has been worth $17 million for just this season.
I realize that not every draft pick is that successful, but it’s not like huge free agent deals (for proven stars) have a significantly better track record. I mean, look at the players with a $100 million contract. How many of them went really well? There’s the first A-Rod deal and the first Pujols deal. Miguel Cabrera has been good so far. Jeter was pretty good. The Mets broke even on Carlos Beltran, and I would imagine the Red Sox made the cut-off with Manny (minus all the drama regarding their relationship). Matt Holliday, Cliff Lee, Troy Tulowitzki, and CC Sabathia haven’t been too bad yet, but there’s plenty of time time (all of them are signed through AT LEAST 2016).
Now, how many didn’t? Ken Griffey’s Reds deal. Mike Hampton. Todd Helton. Barry Zito. Vernon Wells. Alfonso Soriano. Kevin Brown. Carlos Lee. Ryan Howard, Carl Crawford, Jayson Werth, and Joe Mauer all just started, but I would bet all of their teams would give their deals up if they were given the opportunity (heck, the Blue Jays already did with Wells). Mark Teixeira is looking less and less like he’ll hold up. Johan Santana has been good when he isn’t injured (a huge condition). Jason Giambi and Todd Helton were good, but came nowhere near what they were paid. Adrian Gonzalez, Albert Pujols, Joey Votto, Alex Rodriguez, Jose Reyes, and Prince Fielder will all be paid late into their careers, and I would guarantee they all wind up really overpaid at the end barring massive salary inflation in the game between now and then. That’s 21 out of 32, not counting the four “haven’t gone bad yet” deals. And the ones that have gone bad have either partly ruined a franchise or were only papered over with more money. And that’s just out of the deals that went over $100 million. If you go with a lower cut-off, we can bring in Jason Bay, Torii Hunter, Tim Lincecum, John Lackey, Carlos Zambrano, Andruw Jones, etc.
How many times has a draft pick failing ruined a team for years? How many times has a team been helped immensely by a draft pick? Just my take on the new system.