How draft slotting works

DMZ · June 14, 2006 at 9:57 pm · Filed Under General baseball 

This topic came up a lot during the draft, so I wanted to point people to the latest Baseball America, which has a great article by Jerry Crasnick (“Slot System Tests Teams’ Creativity,” subscription required). I wish they’d make it free because it’s the best single piece I’ve seen on how MLB is forcing draft slotting, why it’s good and why it sucks, and how some teams are losing players over it and others are taking advantage. It’s a really good piece of work.

I don’t want to quote it too much – if you’re at all interested in this, find an issue at your local newsstand – but it’s got stuff like this

“In the big picture, everybody in baseball is on the same page,” the AL official says. “But this has created a division between the teams who will toe the line–the ones that (commissioner Bud) Selig and the commissioner’s office have influence over–and the clubs who don’t give a crap. They’ll take the best players and give them the money. There’s an advantage there, isn’t there?

Essentially, as the article outlines, it works like this:
- scouting director wants to pay a kid over slot
- he calls MLB, which now handles the offers, and says “give the kid this offer”
- MLB balks, gives him a hard time
- MLB calls the owner, gives him a hard time
- (optional) Selig calls the owner and/or other people, give them a hard time
- if the team insists, the player gets the new offer, and the team gets fined for exceeding the slot

The article doesn’t really speak to what happens to teams that ignore slotting, but it does hint at it:

“We have the choice to go over slot, but that’s like telling a high school kid, ‘You have the choice to break curfew,’ ” an NL talent evaluator says. “Sure you do. But you also know there’s going to be some kind of consequence.”

Anyway, go check it out, and remember it when you think of Andrew Miller.

Comments

27 Responses to “How draft slotting works”

  1. Trev on June 14th, 2006 11:03 pm

    Pity the article’s not free.

    I’ve never heard the M’s considered a “toe-the-line” kind of team, though. It’s not as if we should be either, we’re a high revenue team, so we can afford to piss Selig off.

    I’ll think about that when Andrew Miller makes his major league debut by shutting out the Mariners.

  2. The Ancient Mariner on June 14th, 2006 11:04 pm

    “Because draft picks are tied to free-agent compensation, any changes in the system must be collectively bargained.”

    OK, that’s what I thought I remembered. It will be interesting to see if the changes discussed in the last round of negotiations come up again next time, and if they or any other significant shifts in the draft ever happen. At the very least, I’d like to see teams allowed to trade picks (the only thing on which I agree with $cott Bora$) — that restriction makes no sense to me whatsoever.

  3. The Ancient Mariner on June 14th, 2006 11:06 pm

    It’s not about being high-revenue in our case — more like herd mentality.

  4. DMZ on June 14th, 2006 11:19 pm

    “I’ve never heard the M’s considered a “toe-the-line” kind of team, though.”

    This ownership group’s always been one of the more reliable sheep in the herd.

  5. Jim Thomsen on June 14th, 2006 11:23 pm

    I don’t understand why a team’s scouting director has to go to MLB with a team decision. Is this a requirement, or just protocol?

    And fined? So slotting is not just a pressure tactic, it’s official canon?

  6. Jim Thomsen on June 14th, 2006 11:24 pm

    So can we presume that Bud Selig is going to punish the crap out of Detroit when the Tigers sign Andrew Miller for $5.5 million or whatever? Punish how?

  7. Jim Thomsen on June 14th, 2006 11:30 pm

    PITTSBURGH — Right-hander Brad Lincoln, the No. 4 pick in this month’s major league draft, reached terms Wednesday with the Pittsburgh Pirates and will get a $2.75 million signing bonus.

    So does this mean that this is the sort of money we can expect the M’s will give Brandon Morrow?

  8. ConorGlassey on June 15th, 2006 12:06 am

    So can we presume that Bud Selig is going to punish the crap out of Detroit when the Tigers sign Andrew Miller for $5.5 million or whatever? Punish how?

    Not really. The fines are believed to be in the $75,000 range. It’s a (light) slap on the wrist…

    But, is Andrew Miller really worth twice as much as Brandon Morrow? I don’t think so.

  9. Churchill on June 15th, 2006 12:22 am

    Miller would have probably played hardball with the M’s, too, moreso than he will with Detroit.

    He clearly wanted no part of a terrible team (KC, COL, TB, PIT, even SEA) and he surely didn’t want to go 3000 miles from home to a terrible club.

    He tried his damndest to get all the way down to Boston or New York, or as a second choice, the Cubs, who all would have destroyed slot money to sign him.

  10. ConorGlassey on June 15th, 2006 12:30 am

    Oh – and the fine’s only applicable if the Tigers don’t notify MLB that they’re going to pay him over-slot. So, there’s a good chance they won’t get penalized at all.

  11. T-dawg on June 15th, 2006 4:32 am

    Is Miller’s middle name Kobe?

  12. davepaisley on June 15th, 2006 6:04 am

    I can hardly wait to see Andrew Miller live up to the hype of that other Miller – Bode…

  13. Avery on June 15th, 2006 6:13 am

    I think I heard on Baseball Prospectus radio that another penalty for going over slot is MLB sometimes won’t let you sign the guy in time to play that season.

  14. Dave on June 15th, 2006 6:47 am

    Like Conor said, the fine is only in place if the team fails to nofity the commissioner’s office that they’re going to pay over slot to a certain pick. It’s a lack-of-communication fine, not a pay-over-slot fine.

    I think I heard on Baseball Prospectus radio that another penalty for going over slot is MLB sometimes won’t let you sign the guy in time to play that season.

    If thats what they said, that’s pretty bad. MLB doesn’t have a choice in whether you sign the kid – they will recommend that you sign him to an ’07 contract later on to keep other late draftees from using that deal as leverage to get above-slot bonuses themselves, but they can’t practically stop you from signing the player.

  15. DMZ on June 15th, 2006 8:13 am

    I don’t understand something, then. MLB is now the conduit for offers. Teams have to go through MLB to make their offers. Given that system, how can anyone ever be fined for not informing the league they’re exceeding slot? They have to inform the league so the offer can get made.

  16. Dave on June 15th, 2006 8:32 am

    I’m not sure where you got the conduit part from. Teams still negotiate with the players themselves. They just have to run over-slot offers by Coonely before inking the deal.

  17. Grizz on June 15th, 2006 9:09 am

    On the relationship between Selig and the M’s ownership group, don’t forget that Selig ended up as an ally in their purchase of the team. It seems rather silly now, but at the time, the issue of Japanese ownership was very controversial.

  18. Evan on June 15th, 2006 9:33 am

    I thought it was the issue of Nintendo ownership that was controversial (because the standard ownership rules would have given Nintendo a de facto MLB license for their game products).

    But I might not be remembering that right.

  19. Brian Rust on June 15th, 2006 9:58 am

    Is their any way to reconcile our desire to see our beloved Mariners pursue over-slot talent with our desire to see them adhere to Moneyball principles?

    Put another way, isn’t paying over slot inherently overpaying for talent?

  20. Brian Rust on June 15th, 2006 9:59 am

    AAAAARGH!! Mea culpa!!
    I meant “Is there . . “

  21. Dave on June 15th, 2006 10:03 am

    Is their any way to reconcile our desire to see our beloved Mariners pursue over-slot talent with our desire to see them adhere to Moneyball principles?

    If Moneyball principles include drafting Jeremy Brown and paying him $300,000, then I have no desire to see the M’s ahdere to that in the slightest. The draft chapters of Moneyball, while some of the best written, were also the ones that were the most analytically incorrect.

    Put another way, isn’t paying over slot inherently overpaying for talent?

    No. Slot isn’t an ordained market-adjusted price perfectly aligned with a player’s true value – its a number given by Seligula and his cohorts in an attempt to drive down labor costs.

  22. Grizz on June 15th, 2006 10:18 am

    Evan, concern over foreigners, especially Japanese, owning something as All-American as a baseball team made the sale of the M’s into a national news story (such as the front page of NY Times, not just the sports section). In the early 1990s, there was still a lot of anti-Japanese sentiment in the U.S., as it was the era of “Rising Sun.”

  23. Mike Snow on June 15th, 2006 10:44 am

    Put another way, isn’t paying over slot inherently overpaying for talent?

    No. Slot isn’t an ordained market-adjusted price perfectly aligned with a player’s true value

    And even if it were, you’d still have to require that players be drafted in their “correct” slot, otherwise the connection between slot money and value is lost. See the Reggie Bush contract negotiations. Effectively, you’d have to force the Royals to draft Miller, and then you’d have to force Miller to sign for slot money.

  24. Evan on June 15th, 2006 10:54 am

    22 – Thanks, Grizz. I didn’t know that.

    I guess I thought people were more pro-globalisation than that.

  25. msb on June 15th, 2006 10:57 am

    #22– USA TODAY, May 29, 1992 “Owners look silly turning away financial saviors”, Hal Bodley
    [snip]
    The Seattle Mariners are also knee-deep in past-due bank notes and red ink. Owner Jeff Smulyan is way overextended.

    But unlike other desperate franchises, the Mariners have a savior. Hiroshi Yamauchi, head of Nintendo Co. Ltd. of Kyoto, Japan, is singing a $ 75 million tune. That’s 60% of the $ 125 million standing by, waiting to resuscitate the gasping Mariners.

    So baseball should be rushing to Yamauchi and his Baseball Club of Seattle with open arms, right? Get rid of the Seattle problem and that’s one less problem for baseball, right?

    Nah, too simple for the owners. Instead of allowing the Baseball Club of Seattle to buy the Mariners, the ownership committee is trying to drive away the prospective buyers.

    There was the matter of a recent policy that prohibits non-North American ownership of major league franchises. That was solved when the proposal was restructured (read: camouflaged) to show majority local control.

    Now this 10-man committee is demanding the Baseball Club of Seattle, King County and possibly the state of Washington waive their right to sue baseball if the proposed sale is rejected.

    Unless it plans to reject the offer, why should baseball worry about getting sued?

    There’s a chance the Baseball Club of Seattle will reach a compromise on the suit waiver. But don’t hold your breath waiting for King County and Washington to agree. It won’t happen.

    It’s obvious certain members of the committee – led by White Sox chairman Jerry Reinsdorf – are doing everything in their power to prolong the agony and hold the Seattle baseball community hostage. There’s little chance now that this powerful committee will have a recommendation ready for full ownership vote June 9-11 in New York.

  26. MarcS on June 15th, 2006 11:24 am

    I second Jim’s query in #6 – How will Detroit be punished? What are these “consequences” that are so worth avoiding that we pass up a near-Felix level prospect?

    I mean, jeez, I would have been willing to get grounded for two months for breaking curfew if it meant getting lucky with Jennifer Loehner. (Actually, in her case, first base would have been worth it…)

  27. chrisisasavage on June 15th, 2006 12:28 pm

    #26, I dont think anyone said Miller is near Felix-level, but that he’s a very good pitching prospect and easily the best of the draft.

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