It looks like new Commissioner Rob Manfred wants to continue the tradition of Bud Selig: institute changes to Major League Baseball designed to make as much money as possible as well as save money in the process. This week, presiding over his first ever amateur draft, Manfred indicated some of these changes in regards to the draft. Right before teams began selecting players on Monday, Manfred announced at the MLB Network studios that he would love to work with the NCAA and make the draft more of an event to show off the young athletes. As Manfred said, “This event, like every event is about the players.” Of course many players being selected this past week were still playing ball and getting ready for the College World Series. Players simply received phone calls at home notifying them of their selection.
Compare the MLB draft to, say, the NBA and NFL, which include both players and media present at a designated venue as well as fans tuning in from around the world to see their favorite team’s selections. For the NBA and NFL, draft day is used as a marketing event, hyping up its young players, teams, and of course the leagues. It’s obvious that Manfred wants MLB to be in line with the NBA and NFL. As he stated on Monday, “I think the opportunity for our fans to see young men who are being drafted, the excitement that it generates for those young people makes for great television.” To achieve his goal of “great television,” Manfred suggested working with the NCAA to move schedules around, including moving up the time frame of the College World Series.
The other change Manfred indicated he would like to make is the process of signing international players. In fact, Manfred suggested that those players also be part of the amateur draft. International players are currently part of a system that includes teams bidding for services and shelling out contracts like Jose Abreu’s 6 year, $68 million deal or Masahiro Tanaka’s 7 year, $155 million deal. To Manfred, these deals are “unfair” and said, “I think there’s a fundamental fairness to have everybody enter the game through the same system.”
Imagine if Abreu or Tanaka had gone through the draft system. If either player were selected number one overall, their bonus payout would only be around $6 million and they would be under team control for 6 years. In Abreu’s case, a team could save nearly $60 million if he went through the draft. In Tanaka’s case, well over $140 million. And imagine a draft flooded with international talent. Our own boys would have increased competition and this would mean, of course, lower bonus payouts. Simple supply and demand.
And although Manfred claimed the draft should be about the players, MLB Network’s recent treatment of Scott Boras, the super agent of baseball whose job it is to promote the players, suggests this may not be all that true. Boras claims he was censored for much of the draft process, in which he worked as an adviser for many of these young, draft eligible players. Boras, as we all know, commands hefty, yet well deserved contracts for talent. Many owners, including Jerry Reinsdorf of the Chicago White Sox, openly admit that they will not deal with free agents represented by Boras. In this year’s draft, many of the players Boras was advising, such as Kyle Funkhouser and Daz Cameron, fell multiple slots from the presumption that Boras makes such players “signability risks.”
These changes that Manfred wants makes sense for teams and MLB, as older players and free agents are commanding more and more money every year. With Manfred’s announcement, however, it seems MLB has declared war on the young and international players of the game. It looks like Bud Selig never left.
Featured Image: Via Hardball Talk