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Cutting Back on Signing Bonuses

MLB may not be hurt as badly as some other industries -- cough, automakers, cough -- during the economic recession, but that isn't stopping Commissioner Bud Selig from making moves aimed at decreasing the economic blow that comes from signing top prospects.

According to former New York Times' baseball columnist Murray Chass and Baseball America, Selig is recommending 10 percent cuts to the signing bonuses slotted for top draft picks.

Naturally, Selig can do little to limit teams from exceeding the slotted values of picks, but there's reason to believe that teams really do try to stay within the boundary of the prescribed payments nonetheless. Add to that this excerpt from Chass's piece, and it makes one wonder about the extent of Selig's influence.

Clubs enrage Selig when they exceed their slotted numbers, and he lets them know his feelings.

Hmmm. Interesting. In truth, Selig and the league office have levied fines to teams that pay above their prescribed slotting price in the past, though that has reportedly only come because they didn't follow "proper protocol" for paying above the designated slotted value.

Regardless, the move to limit signing bonuses also makes one wonder how much harder it might be for a team with high picks, maybe even a couple (hey hey Nats fans), to sign those selections. Everyone knows that getting Stephen Strasburg to sign a contract is going to be a challenge. One of the things the Nats could have tried to cajole the expected future ace into signing for something less than A.J. Burnett money (the value that Strasburg's advisor and future agent, Scott Boras, has put on the fireballer) was a massive signing bonus. Now, trying that method will earn the Nationals dirty looks from other teams and, potentially, the Commish himself (is there a more distopic mental image than crossing Bud Selig with Michael Chiklis? I'm not sure there is).

Will any of this affect the players teams select in the June 9 draft? Probably not, but it is a possibility. And when you consider the fact that the slotting system was designed to avoid exactly that scenario, it all seems a curious development, even though it's a move Selig clearly made with the best financial interests of teams in mind.

What do people think? How will a reduction on signing bonuses help or hurt teams with a bid stake in forthcoming draft? What will it do to the Nationals' plans?

By Cameron Smith  |  May 28, 2009; 4:14 PM ET
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MLB's (re:Selig's) overall message is that "We don't want low-to-mid market teams to improve quickly; That would upset the current level of competition - We would rather have the large-market franchises continue their recent rates of success in reaching the post-season, through which MLB can continue to gain maximum profit from a skewed product."

The Lerners' need to learn from the Ilich example in DET; i.e. - This team needs these players to get better, We're signing them, BITE ME!

Posted by: BinM | May 28, 2009 8:44 PM | Report abuse

How is fining teams for going over slot value not collusion?

I can understand something like the NBA where the entry contracts are collectively bargained, but something like trying to enforce a one-sided slot system seems like it'd be illegal.

Posted by: Joran | May 29, 2009 1:11 AM | Report abuse

The Nats have to ignore any Selig directive. A case can easily be made that there should be a rookie cap but it will not exist until it is collectively bargained. If the Nats decide not to draft Strasburg for any reason, they will be called cheap and not trying to become competitive. If you trust the scouts, the gap between Strasburg and the next best player is the largest ever. Failure to draft him could not be explained to any baseball fan. Assuming they draft him, they MUST sign him almost regardless of cost. After failing to sign Crow last season, they absolutely cannot have a second consecutive failure. Boras knows this and so does the league. Strasburg is not truly slotable. The days leading up to the August signing deadline could very well be interesting.

Posted by: mikeladd123 | May 29, 2009 7:06 AM | Report abuse

Fining teams for breaking a rule that doesn't exist is ridiculous. The best part about it is that the money just goes to the other owners.

Posted by: adampschroeder | May 29, 2009 12:32 PM | Report abuse

You forgot one more quote. Scott Boras:

Posted by: jca-CrystalCity | May 29, 2009 2:48 PM | Report abuse

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