Surprise Teams Spend On Draft

It doesn’t take Andrew Tinnish long to explain why the draft matters to the Toronto Blue Jays.

“Because we play in the toughest division in baseball with the two biggest spenders in baseball,” Tinnish told MLBTR. “It’s pretty simple for me.”

As the team’s amateur scouting director, he is responsible for infusing new talent into the organization. This year – the Blue Jays’ first season under Tinnish – the team spared no expense. Toronto signed its 2010 draftees for $11.6MM in bonuses, according to totals compiled by Baseball America. Joining the Blue Jays as the biggest spenders in the industry were the deep-pocketed Red Sox, the Nationals (who signed top pick Bryce Harper) and two others: the Pittsburgh Pirates and the Cleveland Indians.

The Pirates, Indians and Blue Jays have pursued major league free agents cautiously, but each team spent big on draft bonuses this year. Each of those three clubs committed more to 2010 draftees than they did to last offseason’s crop of free agents. And before 2010, no team had ever committed as much in bonuses to one draft class as the Pirates ($11.9MM) and Blue Jays did this summer. Franchises that don’t or can’t spend their way to the top of the MLB standings are investing heavily in the draft because they expect top amateurs will lead to success at the major league level.

But as Tinnish points out, it’s one thing to spend and it’s another thing to find the right players.

“To me it’s not about spending,” Tinnish said. “Whether that’s an Aaron Sanchez, who obviously signed for a reasonable amount for where he was taken (supplemental first round, $775K bonus) or a Dickie Joe Thon, who signed for much more than the recommended amount for where he was selected (fifth round, $1.5MM bonus), it’s about acquiring talent.”

The Pirates haven’t had enough major league talent to post a winning record since 1992 and as an 18th-consecutive losing season unfolds, they are building through the draft. In the two months leading up to last week’s signing deadline, GM Neal Huntington committed more in bonuses than any team except the Nationals. The Pirates selected second overall, which meant they could choose any player not named Bryce Harper. But talented players with potentially intimidating demands fell to them well after the first round.

“We paid players fourth round money in the later rounds because we felt they were fourth round talent,” Huntington told MLBTR over e-mail. “And in effect, [we] added additional upper round talent to our system via this process.”

The Pirates also added top talent when they were expected to: in the first two rounds of the draft. Prep right-handers Jameson Taillon (first round, $6.5MM bonus) and Stetson Allie (second round, $2.25MM bonus) both signed for over-slot deals. Not every organization goes over-slot on its draftees and as Huntington points out, the Pirates rely on the flexibility to make those offers.

“Those resources have allowed us to aggressively add much-needed quality talent to the organization,” Huntington said.

Last summer, the Indians promised themselves that they would do the same.

“A year ago we sat down and decided that we wanted to be aggressive in the draft and try to add as much talent as we possibly could,” Indians amateur scouting director Brad Grant said. “Knowing that where we are right now as a major league organization, we need to infuse as much talent into our organization as possible.”

At that point, the Indians didn’t know they’d end up drafting Drew Pomeranz, their eventual first-round selection. They ranked potential picks based on talent, with players’ demands in mind – but only to an extent.

“We were ready to react,” Grant said. “We knew the players that we liked. We had a breakdown solely by ability and we tried to take the player we liked best.”

The Indians are prepared to spend on elite amateurs because they aren’t able to spend on elite pros.

“Especially with our market, we can’t afford to sign some of the higher-end major league free agents,” Grant said. “That gets out of our spectrum, so the best way to infuse talent into our organization is to acquire it, whether that be through the draft, whether that be through international signings, whether that be through trades, those are routes we have to take in order to acquire top talent.”

The Blue Jays drafted and developed Shaun Marcum, Ricky Romero and Aaron Hill among others under former GM J.P. Ricciardi. The team is under a new regime now, but there’s no question that the Blue Jays continue to rely on the draft.

“The position we’re in, the division we’re in, I think this is an area where we need to be very aggressive and acquire as much talent as we possibly can,” Tinnish said. “[We] hope that that talent helps us in the big leagues or helps us to trade for big leaguers to eventually win the division.”

Before the 2010 season, Baseball America ranked Toronto’s system 28th among the 30 MLB organizations, but as soon as he took over for Ricciardi, Alex Anthopoulos vowed to invest heavily in scouting. Tinnish went into the draft with a willingness to commit to players demanding over-slot deals, but generally speaking, the Blue Jays are not going to out-spend the Yankees and Red Sox.

“We don’t have an unlimited budget, we don’t have unlimited payroll,” Tinnish said. “I think that for a team like us and the position we’re in … we need to draft well.”

The aftermath of the 2010 draft just concluded last week, but Tinnish has been scouting all summer and can already rattle off a dozen showcases and tournaments he has attended in preparation for the 2011 draft. The Blue Jays are not alone; other teams are doing the same.

“We’re well into 2011 already,” Grant said. ”It looks like it should shape up to be a very, very good draft year.”

Teams like the Indians, Blue Jays and Pirates are hoping so. For them, the draft is one area where they out-muscle their richer rivals.


41 Responses to Surprise Teams Spend On Draft Leave a Reply

  1. Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

    Not only that, but AA really took the cake. Sanchez is dominatinig in the GCL. Dickie Joe Thon people think will be a great SS. Sam Dyson was a steal.

    This draft by the Jays was all about upside and AA was willing o spend all along. Yes, people may have wanted Kris Bryant to sign, but all in all, this Jays draft was one of their best ever and it was one of the top 3 or 5 in MLB this year.

    • baseballdude 5 years ago

      yeah blue jays are shaping up real good for the future

      • Dave_Gershman 5 years ago

        no doubt about it. Also, there are some really good sleepers that they took, Dayton Marze is one of them.

        Jim Callis recently said in his podcast this: “We were having one of the BA chats, and someone asked me, out of all the players taken i the top 50 picks, who is the biggest sleeper? And I said Asher Wojciechowski.”

        I really think that said a lot and it also makes sense. I don’t usually like to make comparisons, but Asher Wojciechowski is the exact same pitcher as Josh Johnson. 94-97 fastball, 88-91 slider, and low 80’s change up.

        But again, my guy is Aaron Sanchez. If you check his stats on MILB.com, you will be blown away, trust me. Also another thing that tells me that he wll be a great pitcher, he’s a good athlete. What I mean by thatis he’s less likely to get injured by being a good athlete and he has a very simple effortless delivery.

        Griffin Murphy was the #1 HS LHP in the draft and he signed which is great news. He has really good stuff but hasn’t made his pro debut yet. And Sam Dyson was a steal for them. He took the Gamecocks to the championship I think and was projected to go a lot higher.

        It’s a clichy but it’s interesting that the top 5 teams who spent the most on the draft did the best in the draft.

        • jwredsox 5 years ago

          Asher doesn’t have the good 3rd pitch right now like Johnson. Asher definitely has a legit FB and slider but his change up and curve are average at best atm. Let those develop first before he is the next ace. And Dyson is a toss up. He has great stuff but bad command. He is a high risk high reward gamble guy which was why he went so slow.

          • Sniderlover 5 years ago

            I agree 100%. Asher ceiling would be much higher if he can develop that change-up but even if he doesn’t, I don’t mind. He could turn into a closer if he can’t develop that 3rd pitch.

            I’m happy with the overall draft. Jays really boosted their farm, especially their pitching and considering the amount of arms that have gone down, it’s not a bad thing to load up on pitching, especially with guys like Sanchez and Griffin. Our shortstop has actually some depth now along with our outfield. But we need some depth at 1B and 3B. I like the way AA is heading and this next year’s draft will be even more important to really establish the farm for the coming years.

  2. You can’t talk draft spending surprises without mentioning the Dodgers and Zach Lee.

  3. Great write up, but I agree about Zach Lee. That was the big surprise of the draft for me.

  4. I really appreciated this article. The only thing that I did not like was the way in which they made it sound like the Jays are a small budget team. A few years ago the Jays had a payroll close to 100 million. They are willing to spend the money…the problem though is that they cannot spend enough through FA to put a contending team in the AL east every year.

    • braincapers 5 years ago

      I agree, teams that can give out $126 Mill contract to a player are not small budget team.

    • TheodoreRoosevelt 5 years ago

      Agreed.

      The Ricciardi years were defined by the “third way” of baseball, where you aren’t building a self-sustaining base (Rays), nor are you committing to the mega-payroll required in the AL East (Sox/Yankees); instead it was just a hotch-potch of B+ trades and B+ payrolls.

      Clearly the Jays are not short on money to invest. They are flooding the system with young, high-ceiling talent from home and abroad, and consolidating the first team base (Romero, Cecil, Marcum, Hill, Lind, Wells) with shrewd trades for elite talent (Morrow, Escobar).

      I think the 2011 draft will be a definitive turning point for the Jays. If Tinnish and his crew get it right, then the Jays will have a magnificent farm, and ought to be in a position to add those one or two free agents that can push them over the top and into an era of self-sustaining success.

      Here’s hoping…

      • alxn 5 years ago

        To be fair, that base was put together by Ricciardi.

        • TheodoreRoosevelt 5 years ago

          He did, but the broader question is the state in which he left the Jays after 8 years of drafting, trading, and acquiring. Ultimately, there wasn’t enough elite talent in the farm, and the roster was not good enough to compete. There is little question that he was handcuffed by ownership to a large degree, but that’s the price you pay for being a GM: it is your name stamped on the era. And what he left after 8 years was a pretty aimless franchise.

        • HipNip2009 5 years ago

          Yes, he did. That was the one area he did well. Paying Alex Rios and Vernon Wells, not so good.

      • moonraker45 5 years ago

        extremely well put about the limbo period that was the Ricciardi years. great post. wish i could have liked it more then once..

    • iains 5 years ago

      I agree. Toronto is a metropolitan area roughly equivalent to Houston and has around 480,000 viewers per game. The money is there, just not currently a $200 million a year team at the moment.

  5. braincapers 5 years ago

    Small market teams don’t give 126 Mill. contracts to players.

  6. $1519287 5 years ago

    Hey I didn’t say Toronto was a small market. I live here and I know it’s a big market. I just point out that the Blue Jays have spent cautiously on free agents (since the Ryan/Burnett year especially) and are not going to compete with the Yanks and Red Sox when it comes to $$$.

    – BNS

    • I don’t buy this…well, they won’t compete with the Yankees when it comes to spending, but they absolutely could compete with the Red Sox. The Red Sox have completely tapped their resources, and depend on having sellouts all 82 games every year. The Red Sox haven’t led the MLB in payroll, while the Jays and Orioles have led it 3 or 4 times combined since 1990. I know it was a while ago, but with more success and fan support, I could absolutely see the Jays having a similar payroll to the Red Sox. People forget that in the 90s the Red Sox were consistenly the 3rd or 4th payroll in their division.

      • moonraker45 5 years ago

        No one said the jays can’t spend, but the jays can’t buy out their mistakes as easily as the yankees and red sox do. If the jays invest 100 million in a star center fielder, they need him to hit .300/30Hr/100 rbi’s or they’re screwed. . The jays have to spend a bit more intelligently then the yanks and red sox, they need their star/expensive players to play like stars

        With their new emphasis on scouting and player development, plus the funds that will be their to either keep the stars that surface or signing FA’s to fill holes, its pretty plausible that the jays will be competitive for years,, starting soon.

      • Umm the Jays don’t nearly have the money that the Red Sox do. Where do you get the information that the Red Sox resources are tapped? Just because they don’t want to spend as much money as the Yankees do doesn’t mean they can’t. Since 2000 the Red Sox have earned the second most revenue in baseball even though they are like a billion behind the Yankees. The Sox just don’t want to break the luxury tax threshold so they don’t have to pay the extra money. It’s proven that you don’t have to break it to win, as they could (and most likely would) be in 1st place this year if they hadn’t had injuries.

        The Sox have been around far longer than the Jays. Success for the Jays in the 90’s doesn’t make up for all the success that the Red Sox have had over the last 100 years. So if you’re implying that the Jays can compete with the Sox payroll wise because of their success in the 90’s why don’t you try looking at the approximate $1.3 or $1.5 billion the Sox had in revenue this decade not to mention the other 90 years of the past 100. If the Sox wanted to they could dig deep and have a payroll of $200 mill but they don’t want to turn into the Yankees by buying every player out there.

        • TheodoreRoosevelt 5 years ago

          I don’t think this is an issue about the Red Sox.

          The point is that the Jays have been at that middling payroll for some time now; more than many, less than those who count (the Sox and the Yankees). The question is whether or not the Jays could lift their payroll to Red Sox levels.

          And if you are to believe what has been coming out of the Toronto media and Rogers Communications for the last year, then yes they can – and will.

        • Actually, the Red Sox own MASN, which accounts for the bulk of their revenue stream. The Blue Jays are owned by their broadcaster, who DWARFS the red sox in earnings (Rogers Communications). Since Rogers does not publish earnings directly attributed to the Sports entity, there is no way to accurately guage the income the Jays have made since 2000. Considering the Greater Toronto Area is the 5th largest Census Metroplitan Area in North America, and the largest without 2 teams, it is easy to assume that the Jays earnings could eclipse most teams in the MLB. Furthermore, the Rogers Centre has seating capacity for up to 55,000, versus the 35,000 or so seats at Fenway, so if the Jays start winning again, and filling the building, gate receipt income will also be higher.

          So don’t tell me that the Jays don’t have “near the money the red sox do.” Learn about other cities and their demographics before you post ignorant comments like this.

          • Also, it’s hard to take you seriously when you say that Boston has had “Sucess over the past 100 years” Toronto and Boston are tied for championships over the last century (2 each) all Boston has is 90 plus years of mediocrity to point to before the last decade…

          • Andy Mc 5 years ago

            +100

          • I wasn’t just talking world series wins. They have been to the world series more times since the Jays existence and have more wins since that time. They have been the playoffs several more times as well. Oh and you must really do your homework because since 1910 the Sox have 6 World Series. Thats the last 100 years, they won in 1912, 1915, 1916, 1918, 2004, and 2007.

          • Andy Mc 5 years ago

            +10

          • It’s NESN just to let you know. And apparently you have no idea as to exactly how much the Sox pull in every year from merchandise and ticket sales and concession considering they have sold out every game over the last few years they get tons of money from that. I would be willing to bet it’s still a lot more than they get from NESN even though they get a lot from them. And yeah Rogers Communications may make far more than NESN but that doesn’t mean they sink all their money into the Blue Jays.

            The Jays definitely make more money than a lot if not most MLB teams but definitely do not make more than the Sox or the Yanks or Mets or Cubs or Cards. Forbes had a list out listing the top 5 earning teams since 2000 and those were the top 5. The Jays may one day be able to have the payroll that the Sox could right now but they need to have themselves a great year first and in yet fans still may not come (see Tampa Bay).

            Also the seating thing is irrelevant since it doesn’t matter to have extra seats when the Jays can’t come even close to filling them right now. They may and most likely will in the future with the prospects they have. I’m not going to look it up but something tells me the Jays don’t have the attendance that the Sox do.

            Anyways the Red Sox could touch a $200 million payroll or more and I would doubt the Jays can.

  7. Adil 5 years ago

    JP seemed to draft safe players, role players 3-4 starters, AA is doing the opposite, drafting high cieling players and looking to fill in the rest with free agent signings. thats perfect approach for a team that can afford a 100$ mil payroll imo.

  8. baseballz 5 years ago

    Thanks for this, very interesting read. Your right Span, we all wanted Bryant but theres to many reasons to be happy with this draft to fret about Bryant. Maybe he’ll get more once he’s eligable again, but then again, who knows what kind of slotting system will be in place by then.

  9. johnsilver 5 years ago

    Amazing how 1 draft that looks good and a new GM has brought Jays fans out in large numbers and so vocal this year.

    remember same fans how many successful drafts by a VERY adept Rays scouting department it took them before they could even begin to compete with the NYY and Sox. Don’t start printing those playoff tickets quite yet, or until the Rays lose most of the draftees to FA and fail to replace them and the injury bug wipes out one of the Sox/NYY again in a season, those 2 will be hard to beat for the considerable furture in any AL East crown, or WC. Yanks because they will buy anything and Boston because they have been drafting smart for years and have an unlimited budget in that regard and can afford to add a few players to payroll as well when needed.

    Jays are going about it the right way now, just do it in steps.

    • TheodoreRoosevelt 5 years ago

      When you paint in broad brushstrokes such as that, sure, fans appear too eager. But when you get into the details of things, I think a lot of the excitement is justified. Take the farm as an example. Not even a year ago it was ranked 28th out of 30, and the future was a head-scratcher. But in less than a year it has been massively replenished with the likes of Gose, Drabek, D’Arnaud … a draft containing a lot of high ceiling talent … high-ticket international pickups … and a surplus of outstanding catching prospects.I mention the farm because it exemplifies the rapid progress the Jays organisation seem to be making. Most pundits picked the team to finish dead last in the division, but the Jays are currently on schedule for an 85-win season. And that is despite the loss of Halladay, and the ineffectiveness of Adam Lind and Aaron Hill. Next season Hill and/or Lind should rebound, and you have multiple potential upgrades in Arencibia, Snider, and Drabek, plus a full season of Escobar. Not to mention other trades/FA signings. I hate to give a rundown of the Jays’ status; I’m sure you’re aware. I just think that the devil is in the details, and the fanbase is not being wholly irrational in its excitement. I agree that this is a process and that people ought not to push all-in with their hopes just yet, but nobody should be surprised if this organisation continues its rapid rate of progress.

      • johnsilver 5 years ago

        That post I made was not a dicing of Jays fans. The fact the Jays have so many young players now from the system and have a farm system with young players worth watching is to me what helps make a team exciting.

        When 2 teams that have a habit of not spending big on the Rule 4 draft like the Tribe and Jays all of a sudden do in the same year.. Something must be going on in the heads of ownership on those 2 teams and they realize that this is the cheapest and best way now to get the best talent at the lowest price and it is amazing how few teams spend big money in this draft, outside of the high drafting teams and those 1st round picks. THIS is where the true wealth can be found, not in giving out huge salaries to the Kerry Woods, Jose Guillens and Ollie Perez’s of the world.

        The longer that more teams refuse to scout adequately/spend on the June draft, the better it is really though for the smart teams, but am glad to see a few teams that really need to do it wisening up and a few foolish large market teams still not doing so.

  10. Guest 5 years ago

    The team that spent the least amount of money the previous two years, goes out this year and hands out one of the fattest bonuses ever.

    Wonder who that was. Because they define Surprise Team that spent on the Draft.

  11. ukJaysfan 5 years ago

    I’m just happy that there are still large-ish numbers of Jays fans that still give a damn about their team. I do worry that next year, when they don’t compete for a playoff spot that people will start calling for Anthopoulos’ head on a stick. It’s a process – they’ve made a good start, lets just do it the right way.

    • Sniderlover 5 years ago

      I doubt it. Most if not all love AA and they love the direction he is going. Everyone knows we likely won’t be competing for playoffs next year or maybe even the year after that which is why it’s a rebuild. It’s likely going to take 2-3 more years before we see playoffs and I’m sure most are willing to wait for that if AA can continue to take this right direction he is going to.

      Right now, we’re all just happy watching our young guns grow (and unhappy when the likes of Snider are benched in favor of Lewis…).

  12. YanksFanSince78 5 years ago

    These comments caught me and slightly amused me:

    “The Sox have been around far longer than the Jays. Success for the Jays in the 90’s doesn’t make up for all the success that the Red Sox have had over the last 100 years”.

    Last 100 years the Sox certainly have the Jays beat in terms of WS rings….oh wait…..the Jays haven’t been around for 100 years. They have been around for 33 years and in that time they have won the same amount of American East titles as the Sox (5) and the same amount of WS rings (2).

    and this one…..

    “If the Sox wanted to they could dig deep and have a payroll of $200 mill but they don’t want to turn into the Yankees by buying every player out there”.

    Keep in mind…”every player out there”.

    # of FA starters (everyday position player, starting pitcher or closer) signed who DID NOT make their mlb-debut as Yankees or Sox or was NOT originally acquired via trade and then signed to an extension:

    Yanks: Tex, CC, AJ, Pettite (signed back as a FA), Nick Johnson, Marcus Thames (signed back as a FA).

    Red Sox: Scutaro, Beltra, Drew, Cameron, Lackey, Wakefield, Dice-K.

    Now the Yanks have committed to more dollars annually and more years but neither teams are hesitant to sign a FA if the need exists.

  13. HipNip2009 5 years ago

    Thank God these sad sack teams didn’t want to pay Buster Posey, who should have gone first, not fifth. And, thank God the Giants uncharacteristically did.

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