MLB has decided upon a five-round draft this summer, according to Jeff Passan and Kiley McDaniel of ESPN.com (links to Twitter). The union had previously agreed to the possibility of a draft as short as five rounds, though more recently had pushed for a lengthier process.
Commissioner Rob Manfred laid down the decision when MLB and the MLBPA could not come to an agreement on the particulars. Interestingly, Passan notes, a ten-round draft was also preferred by baseball operations departments. The version on offer from the league would’ve effectively separated the draft into two five-round sections with greater spending limitations on the latter half, along with a cap on undrafted signings.
Ultimately, it seems, owners were more concerned with avoiding the cost of additional bonuses than they were intrigued by the potential to acquire more high-end talent in the later stages of the draft. Draft-eligible players that are not selected in the five rounds will be eligible to sign for a maximize bonus of $20K.
Teams may struggle to woo players they don’t select. Typically, later-round choices can be paid quite a bit more than $20K. With collegiate play a viable alternative, many will elect to await a (hopefully) more lucrative professional starting point.
Then again, perhaps teams will find some success competing with geography, promises of advancement and opportunity, and other creative inducements. Manfred will no doubt need to be proactive in policing this arena. There’s huge potential upside to be had, which creates some potentially worrying incentives.
Finding value in the draft has long been a chief aim of baseball ops departments. Now they’ll have never-before-seen chances to sign an unlimited number of players for bargain prices. That’ll involve recruitment, of course, but there’s a rare possibility for major imbalance in the talent haul.
Even putting aside worries of rule-breaking behavior, there’ll be potential for havoc. Joel Sherman of the New York Post notes (Twitter link) the possibility of pressure on “late”-round picks to take what they can get or face a $20K cap. There’s also a sense that innumerable soft factors could sway large numbers of players in varying directions, as Chris Cotillo of MassLive.com notes on Twitter. There’ll certainly be downstream effects for players that choose to enter or remain in the collegiate and JuCo ranks.