It appears that it’s official. The 2020 Major League Baseball Draft will be limited to just five rounds. Ernest Dove who covers the Mets farm system for MetsMinors.net was the first to report on this as it being set.

We saw last week that MLB actually proposed a 10-round draft this year – but with even more limited bonuses beyond the 5th round, and a limit on the number of undrafted free agent signings, too. The MLBPA turned down that offer, as is their right to do so. It seems that MLB didn’t try to extend another offer and has decided to go with the original agreement that was agreed upon between the two sides last month. Here are the rules:

  • Five rounds total.
  • Draft bonuses are the same as 2019 bonuses (they were slated to rise at the same rate as revenues, which would have been 2.5% this year).
  • Bonuses are paid out over the next 25 months. Players get $100,000 of their bonus this year when they sign (or less if they agree to sign for under that amount). Then of the amount remaining they will get 50% of that paid out July 1st of 2021, and the remaining 50% of that paid out July 1st of 2022.
  • Undrafted players can sign for UP TO $20,000. Teams can sign as many of these players as they would like.

This move seems to be entirely owner driven. And, well, they do get to make the final calls. But it seems that every single person who covers the draft or scouting at all is sharing stories that no one they talk to thinks it’s a good idea to limit the draft this much, or to cut down the amount of money to sign undrafted players. The amount of money being saved is less than $1M per team. Teams are probably trying to figure out where to save cash right now, but with the restrictions in place on the draft whether it is five or ten rounds, the amount of money saved this summer is far less than even the $1M total that it would save over the next 25 months.

Mark your calendars. June 10th. Five rounds. I’ll be here posting about all six of the players that the Cincinnati Reds draft this season (they have a competitive balance pick, along with their normal five picks).

14 Responses

  1. Chi Reds Fan

    Is there a worse run American sports organization than the MLB? Penny wise, pound foolishness.

  2. Big Ed

    Bonuses for undrafted players are capped at $20,000, but what is to keep a team, most likely the rich teams, from contracting with the player to pay them (say) $50,000+/year to play MiLB? That would allow the teams to outbid the small market teams for a good number of guys who are on the fence about going to college or going pro. Or even more, for a Mike Siani type?

    Frankly, looking at Round 6 of the last 10 years of the draft, very few really good players have been taken there. The best is Marcus Semien in 2011 out of Cal, who has 21+ WAR. The next two in WAR are Kevin Gausman (2012) at 10 and Jake Lamb (2013) at 8.5. Sure, there are guys that go even lower in the draft who become great (Pujols, for example), but my guess is that modern metrics/scouting each year make those unicorns even rarer.

    College baseball will get better. MLB at least ought to pay for wooden bats for the major baseball conferences.

    • Michael Smith

      @biged,

      I think we are skipping over a bunch of guys (i am pulling from guys who are more than just 6th rounders). I am not going to pick the 2 war guys who are on solid career paths which there are quite a few in that year who are exceeding over half the 1st round picks.

      2012 Alone (war)
      6th round: Joey Wendle 6.3 (exceeds 26 first rounders)
      11th Round: Taylor Rogers 6.4
      12th Round: Keone Kela 5.3

      and the list goes on. Some of those guys went a few rounds earlier in the 13 draft but to pretend that MLB has scouting down to a science is wrong imo. There are a whole batch of guys going in round 6 and later who provide far more value than many 1st round picks. I get what MLB is trying to do to control expenses but lord this feels like they are stepping over dollar bills to pick up pennies.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s not so much about finding “really good players” there. If you find 1 role player who gives you 2 WAR in their career before free agency, that is worth about $14M in “profitable” value to a team versus having to have paid a free agent for that kind of value.

      • Michael Smith

        I get what you are saying Doug. I was trying to narrow things down a bit and yes 2 war guys provide a tone of value especially when they are coming later in the draft.

        I am just trying to wrap my head about what MLB development plan is at this time. I get wanting to cut down a bit on cost but it seems that by cutting player development you are ensuring short term profit with possible long term loss.

      • Doug Gray

        To be 100% honest here: I don’t believe a large majority of team owners care one bit about the future of the game of baseball, or long term losses because they’re going to be out before those losses ever matter – either because they sold the team, or because they died (young people don’t own baseball teams).

    • Stock

      I think most of the players taken after round 6 in the draft that make it sign for top 5 round money. Players like Amir Garrett and Sal Romano were taken rounds 20+. But they were paid very well. With the slotting technique they have now I doubt many $1 million contracts are signed for players drafted in the 20th round.

      The Red have signed ZERO players in the last 14 years after round 5 for round 6+ money that had an impact in the majors. Several players Sal Romano (Round 23, career WAR =2.0) and Tucker Barnhart (Round 10, 2.4 Career WAR) have career WAR >1 but they signed for a top 5 round signing bonus.

      It would have been nice to have 10 rounds. It should be pointed out that the owners proposed extending the draft to 10 rounds and it was rejected by the MLB players association. To say the 5 round draft was entirely owner driven is a bit misleading.

  3. Stock

    Maybe it is just me but I would jump all over a $20,000 signing bonus knowing from then on I make roughly $10,000 a year if that meant living my dream of playing baseball. Unfortunately, I was never talented enough to be even an afterthought. My guess is I am not alone here.

    Because of this I feel the Reds have a huge advantage in this years draft class. Assume the top 200 picks are drafted. The Reds have a real opportunity with picks 201 – 500 (rounds 6 – 14) and then again picks 500 – 1,000 (rounds 15 – 33).

    My guess is 200 of the 300 players projected to go in rounds 6-14 do not intend to sign a contract for $20,000

    Picks 201 – 500 -100 players that intend to sign

    Roughly 40 pitchers and 60 hitters. I go to these 40 pitchers and preach the success Boody has had adding 2-5 mph on a pitchers fastball. Paint the picture that if they sign with Cincinnati they have a much better shot at a ML career and Boody’s teaching will minimize their travel time. If I am a pitcher who is planning to sign for $20,000, I sign with the Reds. No other team is even close.

    Picks 201 – 500 -100 players that do not intend to sign

    Roughly 80 pitchers. These 80 can be divided into two categories. Those who feel college is no more than a means to improve their future signing bonus and those who feel baseball is a means to a good college degree. Focus on the former group. Try to convince them that their focus should be not in the signing bonus but in maximizing their potential and career. Explain to them that this draft is unique because in three years a team picks them and this year and this year only they get to pick their team. This is the only chance they have to have Boody oversight. This is their best chance to minimize travel time to the Majors.

    Picks 500 – 1000 – same story but now $20,000 is what they would have signed for anyway.

    I would love to see the Reds get 10 -15 pitchers in the 200-500 range and another 20 in the 500+ range. This is their one chance.

    • IndyRedsFan

      Stock,

      I hope you are right, but I think that you are way overestimating Boddy’s reputation.

      Don’t get me wrong, I’m glad the Reds have him, but I don’t see him as a universally recognized miracle worker.

      Remember, Caleb Cotham worked with Driveline for 2 or 3 years before giving it up as a pitcher (as a 31 year old) to become a coach.

      • Stock

        Cotham actually makes great case for the Reds. Sure his career was derailed by injuries. But look at how Boddy turned his career around. Prior to 2015 his K% – BB% in the minors was about 10%. But in 2015 his K% – BB% zoomed to greater than 20% at all three levels he played at, including the majors.

  4. BK

    The savings to the Reds are about double the $1M estimate you listed. Last year the Reds slot values for signing bonuses between rounds 6 and 10 totaled $991,500 (granted, some of that money went to players signed in rounds 1 thru 5 or after round 10). During rounds 11 and higher, the Reds spent $1,148,000 on eight players signed for the “slot value” of $125,000 or more. Five more signed for more than $20K.

    https://redsminorleagues.com/2019-cincinnati-reds-draft-tracker/

    “Teams are probably trying to figure out where to save cash right now.”

    Teams are definitely trying to conserve cash as is nearly every other business in America. Spending $1 to $2M unnecessarily could force scores of layoffs later if games aren’t played (or aren’t played in front of fans). It’s really easy to critique the owners spending when you aren’t the one responsible for meeting payroll, paying suppliers and paying debts.

    The owners have an obligation to their current employees and preserving cash extends the amount of time they “know” they can meet those obligations. Perhaps they could stop paying the stadium workers (that was a $1M outlay per team) to invest in players that statistically won’t ever see GABP. Personally, I don’t think that is a very visionary or humane approach to running a large business.

  5. Stock

    Every team is limited to $20,000 offer to those not drafted, but as I stated above, I think the Reds have the Boddy advantage.

    Another tool that I don’t think has ever been mentioned is that teams could offer a new signee a spot on the 40 man roster. This would speed up their travel time or allow them to be a FA after 3 years. This could be a huge pay day. Granted teams would be limited to the number of spots available for this option.