Draft Signing Day

Dave · August 15, 2007 at 7:40 am · Filed Under Mariners 

A bunch of you have been asking in the comments about Philippe Aumont lately, but I’ve held off talking about it until today to avoid making any misleading statements. Since today is the deadline to sign picks from June’s amateur draft, we’ll cover a bunch of topics all at once.

Aumont’s deal is basically done. They’ll put ink to paper later this afternoon, but there was never a real concern that he wasn’t going to sign. Expect the signing bonus to come in around $1.8 million.

Why did it take so long? Well, thanks to an initiative by the commissioner’s office to hold the line on labor costs, the process that teams go through to sign their draft picks has become quite political. MLB sends every team a “recommended” signing bonus for each pick in the first 5 rounds with each selection being worth marginally less than the one previous. They’ve been using this recommended slotting procedure for several years now, but they’re getting more aggressive – this year, they slashed 10% off of last year’s slot bonus recommendations.

Now, thanks to the collective bargainining agreement, the commissioner’s office does not have the power to mandate these bonus recommendations. In the end, the team makes the decision on how much they’re willing to pay. However, MLB has instituted a procedural chain of events that leverages the influence they do have. Before a team can sign a player to a contract for higher than the recommended slot bonus, they must inform the commissioner’s office. If they don’t, they’re subject to a fine. Once the commissioner becomes aware that the player development staff is on the verge of breaking from the recommendation, he places a call to that club’s owner, who in most cases, he’s very close with and has a lot of power over. He leans on the owner, who then in turn leans on the front office, in an effort to convince them to hold the line on the bonus figures.

For most teams, this works. Selig has a lot of allies in ownership groups, and as we saw last year with the Miller/Morrow decision, many clubs will simply decide that it’s not worth it to fight the commissioner for guys who make it known ahead of time that they expect a contract out of line with MLB’s recommended bonus. The Mariners are one of these teams. The ownership is Selig friendly, and they’re not going to significantly deviate from the bonus suggestions with their top picks.

Detroit, New York, and Boston, however, could legitimately not care less about the slotting system. They’re exploiting its flaws to their own gain on a yearly basis. The last four years, the Tigers have selected Justin Verlander, Cameron Maybin, Andrew Miller, and Rick Porcello – all elite prospects who required significant signing bonuses. Only Verlander didn’t require an above slot deal, but since he went #2 overall, he still cost an arm and a leg. Maybin, Miller, and Porcello all fell to the Tigers in large part due to their contract requirements. Detroit, recognizing a chance to add premium talent on a yearly basis, continues to lay out the money necessary to get these kids signed, and it’s been a massive success – Miller and Verlander are both in their rotation, Maybin is a top 5 prospect in baseball, and Porcello’s drawn comparisons to Josh Beckett.

Likewise, the Yankees and Red Sox have also loaded up on guys who fall in the draft due to their bonus demands, using their significant revenue advantage to simply outspend every other team with their draft budget. The other 27 teams are essentially ceding a competitive advantage to the three teams who don’t particularly care about the recommended slot bonuses. It will be interesting to see how many years they’ll be willing to let the rich get richer before realizing that giving these clubs the pick of the litter every year is probably not the best way to run a franchise.

Anyway, that’s a little bit of a diversion from the Aumont issue, but here’s how it applies to the M’s – they’re going to give Aumont a little bit more than the recommended slot, and they’ve known this for a while. However, the commissioner’s office essentially requested that teams that were going to go over slot to sign someone hold off until the last possible minute so that other clubs couldn’t use that signing as leverage in negotiations. As such, there are a ton of deals that will be announced today that have essentially been done for quite a while. The M’s aren’t lying when they say they don’t have a deal with Philippe Aumont just yet – there is no signed contract. But if you take away the commissioner’s offices role in the contract negotiations, this would have been done months ago. There was never any real risk that the Mariners weren’t going to sign him – the delay is just part of the political process teams have to go through to stay on the commissioner’s good side now.

Also, in slightly related news, Monday saw the reassignment of Frank Mattox from director of player development to an undefined role in the scouting department. Mattox, you’ll remember, was the Mariners scouting director before Bob Fontaine’s arrival (rescue?) and he oversaw some of the worst drafts in the history of major league baseball. Greg Hunter will take the director of player development role at least on an interim basis, and it wouldn’t be a surprise if he ended up with the gig full time.


91 Responses to “Draft Signing Day”

  1. The Ancient Mariner on August 15th, 2007 10:49 am

    msb, I don’t think that’s a fair description of the first commissioner, Kenesaw Mountain Landis; though granted, he was given power under extraordinary circumstances.

    Dave, assuming the news on Buckborough is correct, how does this draft look to you?

  2. FrayLo on August 15th, 2007 10:52 am

    Isn’t this the first time the commissioner has been a former owner, though? I feel like that’s an enormous conflict of interest, even though he is elected by the owners. I guess the owners would be stupid to elect someone that didn’t align with their interests, but…to have one of their own as the commissioner doesn’t seem “right.”

    Right or wrong, that’s how it is…I know.

  3. theangryrant on August 15th, 2007 10:56 am

    I find it interesting that only the Yanks, BoSox, and Tigers(!) are willing to defy the Commissioner’s Office and secure the talent they want at market price. There are several big market NL teams – Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers all come to mind – who have the revenue to do what those 3 AL teams are doing; is there no indication they’re willing to buck the trend?

    Very interesting insight into a practice I didn’t know existed.

  4. Sammy on August 15th, 2007 10:59 am

    Dave, just as a point of reference, if teams thought Buckborough was signable where do you think he would have been drafted?

  5. robbbbbb on August 15th, 2007 11:01 am

    Kenesaw Mountain Landis is an anomaly at commissioner because of the circumstances surrounding his appointment. Baseball needed someone “independent” to come in and clean up the game. Landis knew baseball wanted him, and twisted the owners’ arms until he got the terms he needed.

    This had lasting good and bad impacts on the game. Good: Gamblers got thrown out. Bad: Landis was a hard core racist, and the color barrier stayed up.

    Commissioners since then have been subsequently less and less indpendent from ownership. It’s a trend, and a predictable one. The owners are going to continue to try and wrangle power back from the commissioner’s office, and they’ve been successful at it.

  6. ghug on August 15th, 2007 11:02 am

    Almost everybody that works in baseball is corrupt, they make too mutch money to not be. Even if Selig is the only commisioner that owned a team, that doesn’t make him more corrupt or evil than his predecessors. Not that I want to defend him.

    From Bakers blog in s post about Ho-Ram:

    When I made the suggestion the team do something pitching
    wise (foremost a starter, secondly a dependable veteran set- up guy)

    Thinking like that hurts the team, if the FO tries to take his advice, we end up with a new Ho-Ram and a new Reitsma. Green and Sherill are fine, leave them to do the work. GET DAVID WELLS, anything (exept for a number 5 starter on a team with crappy starting pitching) is better than Ho-Ram.

  7. DMZ on August 15th, 2007 11:08 am

    That’s uh, that’s totally not true: the vast majority of people who work in baseball make very little money. It’s only when you get to the manager/GM that there’s decent dough in it.

    Now, if you’re arguing that the ownership makes tons of money, well, totally. But even within MLB’s offices, the people handling transactions don’t pull down tons of money.

  8. FrayLo on August 15th, 2007 11:10 am

    55, perhaps that’s true. I was trying to cover too much ground in my post. It’s just that I look at MLB in comparison to the leadership of the NBA/NFL, and Selig totally pales when compared to his peers.

    I read about the situation mentioned in the root post, and I just wish baseball, as a whole (from the leadership level), was run better.

    Granted, each sport is in a different situation. The NFL broke their union a long time ago and they don’t have guaranteed contracts. NFL/NBA have salary caps, so there’s probably not a huge issue / concern as far as draft pick signing bonuses and limiting their cost.

    I’m getting a bit off topic here so I guess I’ll let it go, but..[deleted, off topic]

  9. davepaisley on August 15th, 2007 11:20 am

    39 – “The draft covers anyone from the U.S., Canada, Puerto Rico, and other territories of the U.S.”

    I’m sure Canada will be happy to find that they’re a US territory now.


  10. Dave on August 15th, 2007 11:25 am

    That was poorly worded, but essentially, I was just trying to say and other countries like Puerto Rico.

  11. JG on August 15th, 2007 11:26 am

    So with this Buckorough fellow, can we expect to see him in Arizona soon?

    Sounds like we made out pretty well in this draft.

  12. scraps on August 15th, 2007 11:26 am

    Selig isn’t a bungler. He’s represented the owners very well. They wouldn’t be happy with him if he hadn’t. He has made baseball fans unhappy — and don’t get me wrong, I include myself among the Selig haters — but we aren’t unhappy enough to stop puring money into the game, and that’s the only measure he’s interested in. No one cares that much how he handled the Bonds thing )notwithstanding that no matter how he handled it, he’d have been lambasted by someone); he’s shrugged off the criticism for interleague play and the all-star game, and he’ll shrug this off too. He beat the players’ union, and the owners will stand with him for a long time for that.

  13. ghug on August 15th, 2007 11:29 am

    I bet I could find this somewhere, but I’m too lazy. [deleted, laziness]

  14. ghug on August 15th, 2007 11:34 am

    I like when comments get deleted and it makes them look dumb.

    Is laziness a crime?

  15. C. Cheetah on August 15th, 2007 11:35 am

    Did DMZ say “totally”…like a valley girl??? OMG!!

  16. terry on August 15th, 2007 11:35 am

    Canada isn’t a US territory? When did that happen?

  17. terry on August 15th, 2007 11:37 am

    Is laziness a crime?

    Well not really but it is a sin. What is worse-a few weekends in the county jail or eternal damnation and torment?

    Google if for no other reason than for the safety of your soul.

  18. ghug on August 15th, 2007 11:43 am

    I choose eternal damnation, jail would hurt my nonexistant reputation.

  19. ghug on August 15th, 2007 11:55 am

    How long does it take for the top draft pick of any given year to get to the majors?

    Where do you find the lineups, when you make the game thread posts I cant find them posted anywhere. It hurts my fantasy team.

  20. f2aler on August 15th, 2007 12:05 pm

    Regarding the draftability of players, isn’t there some exception for US Citizens who reside in other countries i.e. they are draftable, or maybe I have it backwards where a US/DR dual Citizen could move to the DR during his high school years and therefore avoid the draft? Did someone try this, or I am just making this up?

  21. L. Jacob on August 15th, 2007 12:06 pm


    Do you have a sense of whether Mattox’s re-assignment will put the brakes on the aggressive promotion strategy the Mariners have been following with their prospects? I know Bavasi has said supportive things about that policy, but wasn’t sure if the idea was his baby, Mattox’s, or a widely supported view within the organization. Thanks.

  22. Dave on August 15th, 2007 12:08 pm

    The aggressive promotion thing is Bavasi – not Mattox. That won’t change.

  23. Iowa Ms Fan on August 15th, 2007 12:10 pm

    I’m not Dave, but here’s a couple of quick answers to questions.

    51 — It appears to be a fact that Buckborough signed. Here’s the link. (In the Aumont story towards the top.)


    61 — All three signed contracts for 2008.

  24. HamNasty on August 15th, 2007 12:12 pm

    Where/or is there a place to look up all the jobs in the FO and a brief description of what they do? I would be very interested in reading how it all works behind the scenes. Any franchise will work, but Mariners would be preferred.

  25. ghug on August 15th, 2007 12:30 pm

    The Ms have a lineup today that makes me wonder why McLaren is maneger:
    1. DH Ichiro (Why DH?)
    2. 2B Lopez (Let’s hope he heats up, at least it’s not Vidro)
    3. RF Guillen
    4. LF Ibanez (Should be DH)
    5. 3B Beltre
    6. 1B Sexon (Where’s BB?)
    7. CF Jones (Yay, should be higher!)
    8. C Burke (Joh is tired, darn!)
    9. SS Betencourt (Should be batting second, oh well)

    I thought the point of bringing up Jones was Defense.

  26. freezer on August 15th, 2007 12:33 pm


    This is a listing of the M’s front office. There aren’t any job descriptions, but you can see the different departments within the organization and how things work within those departments.


  27. msb on August 15th, 2007 12:43 pm

    1. DH Ichiro (Why DH?)

    because it is about the only way McLaren can get Ichiro! to take a day off, and he is trying to rest players before the September push.

  28. ghug on August 15th, 2007 12:45 pm

    Have we decided that Ichiro! is so good that he has to have an exclamation pooint after his name?

  29. davepaisley on August 15th, 2007 1:05 pm

    78 – what, are you new here?

  30. terry on August 15th, 2007 1:45 pm

    #74: A lot of teams have their press guides linked for download on their mlb.com page.

  31. pygmalion on August 15th, 2007 1:52 pm

    78 He gets the exclamation point in my book because he combines being good with being exciting in a way that is best expressed as Ichiro!

  32. marc w on August 15th, 2007 2:08 pm

    Jeebus, did you see the contract Andrew Brackman is supposed to have signed?

    “Word is that the Yankees and Scott Boras have agreed on a deal that would pay the right-hander a minimum of $4.6 million and possibly as much as $13.8 million based on when he gets to the majors and whether he gives up basketball.”

    I guess the yankees didn’t like being outdone by the Tigers.

    Wow. Just wow.

  33. marc w on August 15th, 2007 2:20 pm

    Great post by Rany over at BP on the shift in leverage in the new draft arrangement (with its Aug. 15th deadline, and its higher compensatory picks should a team not sign its first rounder).
    The more you look at it, the more it seems that we’ll be seeing Rick Porcello type deals. It works for the player, the drafting teams, and if there’s no sanction, what’s the alternative?
    Here’s the link.

  34. Bodhizefa on August 15th, 2007 2:26 pm

    Aumont signs for $1.9 mil bonus! Wheee!!! This and the Buckborough signing make me quite the happy gent for a day.

  35. scraps on August 15th, 2007 2:51 pm

    Jazayerli makes interesting points, but I don’t understand one of his conclusions:

    news of Porcello’s signing only increased the pressure on teams at the top of the draft to sign their players, while increasing those players’ market value.

    If Kansas City doesn’t sign Moustakas, their fallback position — getting a basically equivalent pick next year, near the top of the draft — hasn’t changed at all. I can see how Porcello’s signing affects the players who fell in the draft because of signability, and I can see how the teams that drafted them low are now in a weaker position. But I can’t see how it affects the teams at the top of the draft much at all. They still have just as strong a position to fall back on, and everyone already knows they aren’t going to exceed slot. Kansas City and Moustakas are in the same position as they were.

  36. NBarnes on August 15th, 2007 2:53 pm

    It’s more of a loyalty thing at the moment. A lot of these owners feel indebted to Selig for the work he’s done on their behalf as commissioner, and many are friends with him. They’re not holding the line out of fear, but instead, because they agree with his general philosophies of holding down labor costs.

    And they wonder why they keep losing millions of dollars in collusions lawsuits.

  37. scraps on August 15th, 2007 3:04 pm

    And they wonder why they keep losing millions of dollars in collusions lawsuits.

    Have they lost a collusion lawsuit since the 280 million dollar judgment in the mid-1980s? That’s the only one I know about.

    In any case, collusion has nothing to do with the draft, since these players are not part of the Collective Bargaining Agreement.

  38. marc w on August 15th, 2007 3:05 pm

    That’s a good point scraps. I wonder if it’s something simple/marginal, like removing Porcello from the ’08 draft reduces the number of substitutes that TB can look to, if they fail to sign Price.
    There’s also the issue that this system, and its attendant loopholes/incentives, may become more easily exploited. You could see the top picks hold out for waaay above slot, because obviously many teams are willing to do that. Over time, more and more picks may hold out or just fall to the teams willing to spend. Ergo, you could say the top drafting teams better sign now before things get *really* out of hand. Just a guess.

  39. scraps on August 15th, 2007 3:18 pm

    ESPN is reporting that Tampa Bay has signed Price, six years, guaranteed 8.5 mil.

  40. jullberg on August 15th, 2007 9:38 pm

    The MLBPA must be the best union in the world if they can get the commisioners office to crap their pants every time a draftee gets a couple thousand dollars more, and yet the money for mediocre FA’s are skyrocketing with no end in sight (Suppan, Lilly, Zito…). I understand the idea of paying for proven talent vs. unproven prospects, but it seems like the commissioners office is fighting the wrong battle. Or is it just me?

  41. Karen on August 16th, 2007 3:44 pm

    theangryrant said in #53: I find it interesting that only the Yanks, BoSox, and Tigers(!) are willing to defy the Commissioner’s Office and secure the talent they want at market price. There are several big market NL teams – Cubs, Cardinals, Mets, Dodgers all come to mind – who have the revenue to do what those 3 AL teams are doing; is there no indication they’re willing to buck the trend?

    Buster Olney is reporting today that FOURTEEN clubs ignored the signing bonus recommendations from the Commissioner’s Office. That’s 14 out of 30!! Like one baseball executive said, if an increasing number of clubs are going to ignore these recommendations, why issue them? It just put 16 out of the 30 clubs behind the 8-ball, while their allies/competitors hit the jackpot.

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