The Astros have a messy situation with Brady Aiken. With the window to sign the first overall pick closing, the situation has gotten ugly with agent, I mean advisor, Casey Close accusing the Astros of negotiating in bad faith.
The Astros certainly have had a bad couple of months in terms of their public relations, perhaps finally stealing the limelight the Mariners enjoyed(?) this offseason. It is impossible for us as outsiders to know who is truly wrong in this circumstance, but it's easy to place the blame on the draft structure established by the current CBA.
The Astros aren't likely to pocket whatever savings they might get from Aiken, if he does sign, but rather to invest it into more players as the Cubs have done in the previous drafts. Here is a good breakdown of the math involved in the Astros situation.
The reason this has taken on such importance is that teams are unwilling to suffer the draconian penalties for overspending in the draft. At 105% to budget, teams forfeit their highest draft pick the followin season. There is no top 10 protection for this either. That is the reason that no team has gone over that limit since this system went into place. This is also in stark contrast to the international amateur market.
The Cubs and Rangers blew past their respective bonus pools, each accruing the maximum penalty. The Yankees and Red Sox this season are going even further. The last estimate available for the Yankees had them spending over $15 million on international amateurs on a bonus pool of just over $2 million.
The Cubs have gone up to that 105% limit in each of their drafts, and I was curious to see if that was a strategy that a majority of teams are using at this point. The data is incomplete as of yet, so I focused on the first two post-CBA drafts. Here is a chart organized by percentage of available money spent showing the Cubs ranked at the top.
But percentage of spending is just one way to look at the data. The other aspect is total money spent on bonuses, and by that measure the Cubs drift down the rankings slightly.
This last chart illustrates some important points. A common criticism with this front office is that this isn't the way the championship teams in Boston were built. This is a true statement but it neglects an important point. The way that Boston was built does not exist anymore.
The way the front office operated in Boston was to hoard draft picks. As an example the Red Sox picked six times in the first round in 2005. This avenue of talent acquisition simply doesn't exist as compensation picks are rarer and hard slotting prevents spending to make up for lack of picks. And Boston, with a good year and a poor year prior to these drafts, had $6 million fewer dollars to spend than the Cubs.
The other thing this chart drives home is the advantage of tanking. The Cubs had the ability to spend the third most dollars in baseball, and currently the most ever counting this year (the Astros will very likely jump ahead substantially if they sign Aiken and/or Nix). Compare the Cubs to a team that has decided to be just mediocre in the Mets.
The difference again is $6 million in available money to spend. Or, take it another step and look at a team that many people wanted the Cubs to emulate: the Angels. The Angels have signed big-name free agents in each offseason, which has cost the team draft picks. This has resulted in the Angels having $16 million less than the Cubs to spend in the three post-CBA drafts than the Cubs.
The effects of the CBA are still being processed, but teams are taking a variety of approaches to the draft. Teams like the Cubs, Cardinals and Dodgers are spending up to the limit before losing a draft pick.
All teams except the Angels have spent within 5% of their bonus slots in the two drafts prior to this year, and it will be interesting to see if the numbers begin to diverge more once the final totals for this year are in. The early indications are not much as the Cubs still lead the pack at highest percent of bonus pool money spent on the amateur draft.
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Filed under: Minor League News