Year after year, the White Sox skimp out on the draft like no other. Oh sure, they can't win the prize for the least amount of money spent on draft signings every year, but it's consistency that defines true cheapskates, not just random bursts of frugality.
The Sox just don't get hot under the collar for amateur talent. They strive for cost-certainty and easy-to-project players, and have enough individual success stories of fleecing other teams by trading them eventual busts that they'll gleefully point to, even at a time like now; when they're crippled by a few bad big contracts, and have no cheap alternatives because their farm system is barren.
Oh yeah, that's the other thing. No minor league talent means that the Sox have to pay market value for their impact players more often than not. They're not horrible at it by any means--Paul Konerko, Jesse Crain, and Mark Buehrle all lived up to lucrative deals--but just a few busts on big investments on proven players (Rios, Dunn, Peavy), and they're crippled. And in the case of Dunn, they lost a first-round pick for the privilege.
Meanwhile, teams like the Boston Red Sox--and maybe soon the Chicago Cubs--have been making hay for the past few years by going over the recommended payment slotting for elite youngsters, and the Pirates and Nationals have both laid the foundation for future success by throwing record amounts of money into the draft. Having your top picks flame out stinks, but it's simply not the crippling blow that spending $100 million on a replacement player can be.
250 words already without getting to the point? Yeesh. Ok, so the owners and players union are currently hammering out the final details of a new collective bargaining agreement, and are almost a lock to avoid the type of fan-murdering labor stoppage that the other major sports leagues have grown so fond of.*
More specifically, the new agreement looks likely to put a cap on the overall amount teams can spend on each draft, as well as restructure or even eliminate the draft pick compensation system for teams who have their top free agents signed away.
In a vacuum, there's no real reason to support measures like these. First, It puts amateur draftees in a unique position of not being able to demand their market value, further exposing the poor fate they can expect so long as their futures are being negotiated by veterans who don't share their concerns.
Second, this removes one of the great ways MLB maintains some level of parity. "Breaking the bank" on the draft constitutes spending over $10 million on bonuses. While that figure certainly has been accelerating rapidly, it's still to the point where it's affordable for all teams to invest heavily in the draft, it's just a matter of choice. No more clearly is demonstrated than by the friggin' Pittsburgh Pirates leading the league in draft spending in 2011.
Free agent compensation isn't quite as worth getting in a tizzy about since it may just be a re-structuring of the system, and man, could this system use some re-structuring.
Receiving supplemental draft picks is an aid to teams that can't re-sign their free agents while also offering an alternative if the trade market isn't optimal, and top teams being forced to cede their 1st round picks for signing type-A free agents helps somewhat to reign in their prosperity.
It's hard to be excited by these changes...unless you're a White Sox fan.
Sure, it'd be best if the Sox shed their short-sighted approach toward player development, but the next best thing would be a league-wide rule being installed that caps the level to which other teams can exploit the White Sox' self-imposed disadvantage. KW skimped out on the draft? No problem! So did everyone else...by rule.
The White Sox aren't signing any big-time free agents this off-season, but as a top-10 budget team, they're likely to sign more type A free agents than they let walk going forward, so reducing the amount of compensation for those players will probably be to their benefit should it take place. In the short-term, if compensation is reduced, it might push the decisions on Quentin, Danks, and Floyd to be more strictly 'extend them or trade them'. The opportunity to trade, by the way, may be raising it's head as soon as this week.
Rejoice! The league might get worse, and offer less reward to skilled GMs who manage their farm systems brilliantly, and more to those who have cash to throw at veterans. But your team (presumably) is the White Sox, and your GM is Kenny Williams, and they are both well-suited to this new, hellish era.
*One other thing the other leagues do that baseball doesn't; they announce everything to the crowd. Don't understand what a touchdown is? The PA will announce it for you when it happens. Don't know what Derrick Rose looks like, the PA will call out his name whenever he does anything. Baseball? You get the lineups and the substitutions. Everything else, you had better have enough pre-existing knowledge to figure things out for yourself. Not even the July 4th balk-off got explained to fans. Sometimes baseball's snootiness is awesome.
Tags: Adam Dunn, Alex Rios, baseball, boston red sox, Carlos Quentin, Chicago Cubs, Gavin Floyd, Jake Peavy, Jerry Reinsdorf, jesse crain, John Danks, Kenny Williams, Mark Buehrle, Paul Konerko, Pittsburgh Pirates, theo epstein, White Sox