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The Upcoming MLB CBA and the Battles Within It: Hard-Slotting PDF Print E-mail
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Written by Maury Brown   
Wednesday, 18 August 2010 01:41

The Biz of Baseball - ExclusiveShortly after the upcoming World Series is completed, the first of many collective bargaining sessions will take place as representatives from Major League Baseball and the MLB Players’ Association sit across the table from each other to hammer out a new Basic Agreement before the current one expires in mid-December of 2011.

Near or at the top of the list of items up for negotiation will be a hard-slotting system tied to bonuses for amateur draft picks. The league has been working under a “recommended” slotting system for years now, with the MLBPA watching closely over the process. In 2007, agents complained to the MLBPA that clubs were being threatened by the Commissioner’s Office to adhere to the slots for signing bonuses. The league categorically denied that the threats were being made, but Michael Weiner, who was then general counsel for the players union said to the SportsBusiness Journal, “If those recommendations are mandatory and if the commissioner’s office is threatening adverse actions against a club if they go above the recommendations, that is a violation of the basic agreement.”

“If it turns out that, in fact, the clubs are being threatened … the union will enforce the basic agreement,” he said.

So, the question is, do clubs adhere to the recommended slots? How many payout bonuses above, below, or at the recommend system? By looking at this year’s, and past draft bonuses, the league and MLBPA will likely build part of their case for and against the system.

Using data provided by Jim Callis of Baseball America that tracked bonuses plus the estimated slots, here’s how this year’s draft bonuses breakout:

  • There were a total of 175 players selected through draft picks through the first 5 rounds. By the deadline 11 of them did not sign leaving a total of 164 players that received bonuses.
  • Of those 164 players signed in the 5 rounds, plus two supplemental rounds, a total of 71 players were deemed to be paid bonuses over the recommended slot, or 43 percent of the total. Of those 71 bonuses, 17 of them, or 24 percent, were players in the 1st round.
  • On the other end of the spectrum, 24 players, or 15 percent of the total were given bonuses below the recommended slot.
  • Showing that clubs do indeed look closely at the league recommended bonus for a given draft slot, 69 players, or 42 percent of the total were given bonuses exactly at the slot figure.

Breaking down total dollars:

  • A total of $140,997,730 was paid out in bonuses for this year’s amateur draft class over the rounds examined.
  • The total over-slot amount for the 71 players was $40,168,430
  • The total under-slot amount for the 24 players was $1,639,000
  • The difference between over and under slot bonus payout comes to $38,529,430

As expected, jumping out of slot and going above the recommended bonus amount happened in the 1st round where the best talent was selected.

  • Total players selected in 1st round: 32
  • Did Not Sign: 3
  • Signed Above Slot: 20 (69 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $4,116,000 by the Dodgers to the 28th pick (RHP, Zach Lee)
  • Signed Below Slot: 4 (14 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 8 (28 percent of signees)
  • Total 1st Round Bonus Money: $64,408,000
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in 1st Round: $15,797,000
  • Total Amount Under Slot in 1st Round: $821,000
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in 1st Round: $14,976,000

SELECT READ MORE TO SEE BONUS DATA FOR THE REMAINING ROUNDS, A BREAK DOWN BY CLUB, PLUS ANALYSIS

(The following is data for each of the remaining rounds in this year’s amateur draft)

Supplemental 1st Round

  • Total players selected in Supplemental 1st Round: 18
  • Did Not Sign: 0
  • Signed Above Slot: 11 (61 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $2,673,300 by the Tigers to the 44th pick (3B, Nick Castellanos)
  • Signed Below Slot: 3 (17 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 7 (39 percent of signees)
  • Total Supplemental 1st Round Bonus Money: $20,609,700
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in Supplemental 1st Round: $5,970,300
  • Total Amount Under Slot in Supplemental 1st Round: $501,000
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in Supplemental 1st Round: $5,469,300

2nd Round

  • Total players selected in 2nd Round: 32
  • Did Not Sign: 0
  • Signed Above Slot: 17 (53 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $1,566,000 by the Pirates to the 52nd pick (RHP, Stetson Allie)
  • Signed Below Slot: 2 (6 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 13 (41 percent of signees)
  • Total 2nd Round Bonus Money: $23,839,830
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in 2nd Round: $6,102,930
  • Total Amount Under Slot in 2nd Round: $40,500
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in 2nd Round: $6,062,430

3rd Round

  • Total players selected in 3rd Round: 30
  • Did Not Sign: 1
  • Signed Above Slot: 10 (34 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $1,020,100  by the Red Sox to the 110th pick (SS, Sean Coyle)
  • Signed Below Slot: 4 (14 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 15 (52 percent of signees)
  • Total 3rd Round Bonus Money: $13,179,200
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in 3rd Round: $3,155,800
  • Total Amount Under Slot in 3rd Round: $25,800
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in 3rd Round: $3,130,000

Supplemental 3rd Round

  • Total players selected in Supplemental 3rd Round: 3
  • Did Not Sign: 0
  • Signed Above Slot: 0 (0 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: N/A
  • Signed Below Slot: 2 (67 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 1 (33 percent of signees)
  • Total Supplemental 3rd Round Bonus Money: $774,500
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in Supplemental 3rd Round: N/A
  • Total Amount Under Slot in Supplemental 3rd Round: $17,500

4th Round

  • Total players selected in 4th Round: 30
  • Did Not Sign: 5
  • Signed Above Slot: 8 (32 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $1,741,700 by the Nationals to the 116th pick (RHP, A.J. Cole)
  • Signed Below Slot: 2 (8 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 15 (60 percent of signees)
  • Total 4th Round Bonus Money: $10,446,200
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in 4th Round: $5,047,300
  • Total Amount Under Slot in 4th Round: $113,200
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in 4th Round: $4,934,100

5th Round

  • Total players selected in 5th Round: 30
  • Did Not Sign: 2
  • Signed Above Slot: 11 (39 percent of signees)
  • Largest Amount Over-Slot: $1,338,900 by the Blue Jays to the 156th pick (SS, Dickie Joe Thon)
  • Signed Below Slot: 7 (25 percent of signees)
  • Signed at Slot: 10 (36 percent of signees)
  • Total 5th Round Bonus Money: $7,740,300
  • Total Amount Paid Over Slot in 5th Round: $3,361,700
  • Total Amount Under Slot in 5th Round: $119,400
  • Difference Between Under and Over Slot Money in 5th Round: $3,242,300

NOTE: Data deals with MLB established guidelines for every pick through the first five rounds. MLB sets a $150,000 ceiling for subsequent rounds.

TOTAL BONUSES BY CLUB, # OF PLAYERS SIGNED, AND # OF PLAYERS THAT DID NOT SIGN (First 5 Rounds, Plus 2 Supplemental Rounds)

Club # Players Bonus Total Did Not Sign
Nationals 5 $9,854,200 0
Pirates 5 $9,827,400 0
Blue Jays 11 $8,905,400 0
Red Sox 7 $8,346,400 0
Angels 9 $7,364,300 1
Rangers 8 $6,782,300 0
Orioles 4 $6,651,900 0
Dodgers 5 $6,317,400 0
Indians 5 $6,079,000 0
Astros 7 $5,993,530 0
Royals 5 $5,461,000 0
Cardinals 7 $5,309,200 0
Rays 7 $5,093,300 1
Athletics 5 $4,212,900 0
Yankees 5 $3,681,500 0
Rockies 6 $3,496,700 0
Mets 4 $3,267,700 0
Reds 5 $3,261,800 0
White Sox 5 $3,012,700 1
Marlins 4 $2,949,500 1
Giants 5 $2,830,900 0
Tigers 5 $2,732,400 1
Braves 6 $2,675,600 0
Twins 5 $2,515,300 0
Cubs 5 $2,446,000 0
Phillies 4 $2,100,400 1
Mariners 3 $1,853,000 2
Padres 4 $1,777,500 1
D-backs 4 $1,449,800 1
Brewers 4 $1,298,700 1

Source: Baseball America

Does MLB Need Hard Slotting for Amateur Bonuses?

The underlying question for both the league and the MLBPA is, does there need to be a hard slotting system for draft bonuses? The MLBPA will say that regardless of the data, the free market system should exist. The league will be saying that agents are putting clubs into signablity issues by forcing them to pay bonuses that they see as being too high. Clearly, these issues are most acute in the 1st Round where this year 69 percent of those signed in the round were given bonuses above the recommended slot. The PA could look at this matter and say it’s a matter of self-restraint, while clubs will say they are often times forced to choose between paying more or losing the draft pick, even though there are compensations for such an occurrence.

The bottom line is there is a finite amount of money that can be spent on player talent in the league, and the debate will center over paying some players bonuses that dwarf the major league salaries of players that are tested at baseball’s highest levels. The past is certainly littered with players that received high signing bonuses but never saw a single ML at bat. I’m sure veteran players will say that there’s something a bit backwards in paying a player that’s never played in the Majors more than one that has. Watch… The topic of a hard slotting system will be front and center in the months to come as we get closer to a new Collective Bargaining Agreement, and no…. Don’t expect hard slotting to be an issue so hard fought over as to cause a work stoppage in Major League Baseball.  In that, the fans are the overall winners in this battle within the upcoming CBA.

Extra special thanks to Jim Callis for his invaluable work on amateur draft bonuses


Maury BrownMaury Brown is the Founder and President of the Business of Sports Network, which includes The Biz of Baseball, The Biz of Football, The Biz of Basketball and The Biz of Hockey, as well as a contributor to FanGraphs and Forbes SportsMoney. He is available for hire or freelance. Brown's full bio is here. He looks forward to your comments via email and can be contacted through the Business of Sports Network.

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