All this draft deadline silliness has to go

Posted By on August 15, 2011 1:37 pm

Today is the deadline for players picked in the draft to sign, or else the teams that picked them lose the rights to negotiate. So there will be a flurry of action right up until the stroke of midnight (Eastern Time), and it will end with just about all of the players signing.

Kinda silly, don’t ya think? It’s obvious that these players aren’t just agreeing to deals all at once by coincidence. They wait till the deadline, because that’s what happens when you have a deadline.

So, why not make the deadline sooner? Why not make it July 15? Heck, why not make it July 1? (OK, the College World Series is barely over by then, so maybe that’s a little too soon.)

If players were signed earlier, they would benefit by getting the extra half-season of work in the minors, which might actually help them develop and get to the majors sooner. As it now, some guys sit on their butts for two months after the draft, and by the time they sign on Aug. 15, their clubs don’t even bother having them report to the minors, so they don’t start their careers for real — instructional league doesn’t count — until the following April.

While we’re at it, they could really streamline this whole process if they simply went to a hard-slotting system. As it is now, MLB has a suggested bonus for each pick in the top rounds of the draft, and teams are discouraged from going “over slot.” If the teams do want to pay a higher price, they are encouraged to wait until the very last minute, so news of that signing doesn’t affect the market for other teams that are trying to collude play along with the silly little game.

If they simply went to a hard-slotting system, in which a player taken with pick X would get a pre-determined, non-negotiable bonus, then this game would disappear. It would also mean that teams could take the best available player, rather than avoiding those players who might be demanding bonuses they weren’t willing to pay. Isn’t the point of the draft for all teams, regardless of their revenue, to be able to compete on an equal footing for amateur talent?

Seems to me that a hard-slotting system ought to also get the approval of the Major League Players’ Association. Right now, there are 18-year-olds who haven’t played a game of professional baseball getting bonuses that are more than the annual salaries of a lot of big leaguers. Shouldn’t current big leaguers object to that? I’d think they would want to create a system in which the money gets distributed to players who are in the majors, rather than high school and college kids. Also, if you’re a big leaguer who doesn’t play for the Yankees or Red Sox, I would think you would want to have the system that gives you team the best shot to compete for amateur talent with those teams.

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