Even though no baseball is being played on the diamond, that does not mean nothing is going on. Yes, both the owners and players are doing their best to find a way not to get back on the field this summer. While that nonsense is taking on a life of its own, MLB is getting ready for another right of early summer. The first-year entry draft. This year’s version will be a little different. Instead of the usual forty round, three-day event, this will be a two-day, five-round format. The virus is what the owners are using as the reason for the change. Money might be more to the point.
Let’s use last year’s draft as an example. If you were a sixth-round pick, you were looking at a signing bonus of at least $200,000 dollars. Not bad for someone taken on what would have been day two of the process. In fact, all but six of those picks sign for that amount of money. This year, because there will be no sixth round of the draft, the best you will be able to get is twenty thousand dollars. Quite a difference to be sure. And it is not lost on those players that might have been taken at that stage or the agents that will help to sign them.
The owners, plain and simple, are trying to save as much money as they can. Plus, the other argument they will make is that most players drafted in the later rounds have very little possibility of making it all the way to the big leagues. And thus, money is wasted on those who may never get passed high A or even double AA. Even if that is true, what is really being killed here is their MLB dream.
MLB is having a hard time as it is trying to keep fans interested in their product. Based on the way they have handled the current situation, it is no wonder. As it stands right now, almost one thousand players who could be drafted will not be because of a lack of rounds. Instead, they will become free agents, if you will, and be offered the $20,000 dollars bonus. Using last year as the poster child for this statement, a total of close to 1,300 hundred players were taken in the forty rounds last year. Of that number, over nine hundred were signed by the teams. The total payout came to over $316 million dollars. Needless to say, this year’s dollar amount will be nowhere near last year’s total.
The Detroit Tigers are on the clock with the first pick in this year’s event. It is expected they will take Arizona State first baseman, Spencer Torkelson. By doing so, they may end up paying him a signing bonus of eight million dollars. Although the pick itself may make a lot of sense based on the Tigers starting over, it’s the money that teams like the Tigers are trying to avoid. And they will if the draft model can be overhauled for good. Make no mistake, MLB owners are looking at ways to limit the number of rounds and the amount of money they spend on it.
What this may mean for future players that are draft-eligible in the years ahead is anyone’s guess. If you are coming out from high school, the junior college route may be your best option. This will hurt four-year college programs for sure. An eighteen-year-old may just figure that spending two years in a program has more advantages than a four-year commitment. He may be right from a dollar standpoint. Whatever the case, one thing is for sure, the look of the draft is about to be altered and maybe for good.