In a development first reported by Murray Chass, MLB commissioner Bud Selig said his office will reduce its recommendations for bonus slots by 10 percent. Selig made the comments at an owners meeting last week in New York, and Baseball America has confirmed his plan with multiple sources.
MLB recommends bonuses for each pick in the first five rounds, as well as a maximum for all picks afterward. Last year’s estimated slots ranged from $4 million for the No. 1 overall pick to $155,000 for the final choice in the fifth round (No. 172), with a $150,000 threshold for subsequent picks. A complete list of estimated slots can be found here.
MLB can’t force teams to accept its recommendations, but it has exerted pressure on owners to toe the line and fined clubs that didn’t follow a set procedure before paying an above-slot bonus.
The last time MLB slashed draft slots was in 2007, when it believed new draft rules—such as increased compensation for failing to sign premium picks and an Aug. 15 signing deadline—would give the teams extra leverage. That didn’t happen, however, as holdouts increased and bonuses rose over 2006 levels anyway.
Realizing that its efforts could only do so much to control bonuses and were driving a disproportionate amount of high-priced players to free-spending teams such as the Red Sox, Tigers and Yankees, MLB backed off in 2008. The commissioner’s office told clubs to worry about ability more than signability, and all but four clubs signed at least one player for above-slot money. The industry spent a record $188 million on the draft in 2008, up from $152 million in 2007.
Prepare for a slew of holdouts this year, especially in the first round. Several of the draft’s best prospects are advised by the hard-bargaining Scott Boras Corp., and two years ago clubs showed they wouldn’t walk away from their top choices over a difference of 10 percent.
"If I’m advising a first-round pick," one agent said, "I’m telling him there’s no reason to sign before Aug. 15. The longer you wait, the more money you’ll get."
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