New CBA Rules Create Drama-Less Deadline Day

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Radically revamped draft rules this year meant drastic changes in how the process unfolded. That was most evident on July 13, when the signing deadline came and went without the drama of years past.

In 2011, 23 first-round choices remained unsigned as deadline day began. That set the stage for teams spending $132.1 million on bonuses and another $7 million in guaranteed salaries as part of major league contracts. No. 1 overall choice Gerrit Cole (Pirates) set a draft record with an $8 million bonus, while No. 2 overall selection Danny Hultzen (Mariners) landed an $8.5 million big league deal.

Cole and Hultzen alone almost eclipsed the deadline activity in 2012. Only 17 of the 338 choices in the first 10 rounds hadn't come to terms when the day started, and clubs wound up signing 23 players from all rounds for $16.9 million.

Kevin Gausman became just the second college first-rounder to exceed the assigned value for his pick (fourth overall by the Orioles) this year when he agreed to a $4.32 million bonus shortly before the deadline. Mark Appel, the eighth overall choice, generated more headlines when he didn't sign with the Pirates. And Lucas Giolito garnered his share when he signed for an above-value $2.925 million as the 16th overall selection by the Nationals.

But other than that, the first draft under the new rules came to a quiet close. Commissioner Bud Selig got the reduction in draft spending he wanted, with teams spending a combined $207.9 million on bonuses, down from a record $228 million (and another $8.1 million in guaranteed salaries) in 2011.

This summer's spending still ranked as the second-most ever, as did the average first-round bonus of $2,475,167, down from $2,653,375 a year ago. Whether the decrease was more attributable to the rules or a downturn in the talent available can be debated.

The 2011 draft has the potential to be one of the best ever, starting with seven players with No. 1 overall pick-caliber talent who went in the first seven selections and signed for $46.9 million in bonuses and guaranteed salaries. This year's crop was mediocre by comparison, and the top seven picks signed for a total of $29 million.

The $17.9 million dropoff among the top seven picks dwarfs that for the remainder of the draft: $10.3 million, which comes to $343,000 per team. Players signed more quickly this year and high schoolers were as willing as ever to turn pro, but small-revenue clubs no longer could try to compete with the big boys by spending as they saw fit. It remains to be seen whether the draft will enhance parity.

"I'm not in favor of the deal because we can't continue to draft the way we have in the past," one club executive said. "Some clubs don't like it because they want to be more aggressive. Some clubs don't like it because they want to pay less."

The new rules, replete with allocated bonus pools and severe draft-pick penalties for clubs that surpass them by more than 5 percent, led several teams to alter their bonus spending. Seventeen clubs paid $2 million more or less than they did in 2011, and nine of them had a $5 million difference. The Pirates plunged from a record $17 million in bonuses last year to $3.8 million, in part because they didn't sign Appel, while the Twins soared from $5.9 million to an MLB-high $12.6 million this year.

No team sacrificed a 2013 first-round pick by exceeding their bonus pool by more than 5 percent, though the Blue Jays pushed the envelope and came within $341 of that penalty. Toronto was one of 10 teams—along with the Cubs, Cardinals, Red Sox, Astros, Dodgers, Royals, Nationals, Giants and Mariners—who will pay a 75-percent tax on their overages after outspending their pools.

Editor's note: This story has been updated from its original version to reflect the Astros' signing of seventh-rounder Preston Tucker for $100,000 on July 18.