With the Major League Baseball draft in 2020 only having five rounds, teams have been going out and trying to pick up additional talent in free agency in the non-drafted market. Well, at least some of them – more on that later. While it feels all but certain that Minor League Baseball is going to see a big change coming in 2021 as MLB looks to cut down the number of teams in the minors – 40 fewer of them to be exact – teams are still going to have plenty of roster spots to try and fill with talented players.

Baseball America has been tracking the signings by each organization of undrafted free agents. The Cincinnati Reds have currently picked up 10 free agents since the draft (shameless self promotion, we’ve got scouting reports and information on all of them right here). On it’s own, that number doesn’t tell us much. But let’s look at how that number stacks up to the other teams in Major League Baseball, using the number of players signed according to Baseball America through Thursday June 19th.

The Cincinnati Reds have signed more players than any team in baseball with the exception of the Boston Red Sox. Then ten players that the Reds have signed is at least twice as many as 19 teams in Major League Baseball. Only the Red Sox and the Phillies have picked up more pitchers than the Reds have – and the Phillies have ONLY signed pitchers. On the flip side the Mariners, Nationals, Blue Jays, Diamondbacks, and Rockies have only signed position players. The Rays, Angels, and Tigers have not signed anyone.

It’s an interesting look at the teams who have picked up the most free agents. Seven teams have signed at least eight players. All of them, except the Reds, are considered to be teams with big payrolls. All but the Reds and Cardinals are “big market” teams, and while the Cardinals aren’t in a “big market”, they do tend to bring in money like some of them because of an incredibly high rate of season tickets built up since the Mark McGwire home run era and sustained winning ever since.

These numbers can certainly change moving forward. There are probably some players out there who are still trying to figure out their best plan of action – whether to return to school or to begin a professional career with a limited signing bonus. Still, it’s likely there aren’t going to be a ton of new signings beyond this. In all of MLB there have only been 134 players signed (according to the Baseball America list, that is). That’s less than five players per organization.

11 Responses

  1. Stock

    I really expected this and in fact i am surprised the Reds are not doing better. I was hoping the opportunity to work with Boddy would increase the signings.

    That said it is not about the quantity. It is about the quality of the signings.

  2. enfueago

    Is there any connection or correlation to the large number minor leaguers released?

    • Doug Gray

      I don’t think so, no. Most teams released 25-35 players.

      • camisadelgolf

        I doubt it was necessary in this case, but an organization is allowed to have no more than 290 players.

  3. Roustabout

    I believe fangraphs (or perhaps the athletic) had a post indicating that at least part of this may be due to players trying to pick systems where they thought the farm system had gaps. For example, if the system was bereft of starters, they would target such a system as no one can offer them more than 20k. So signing more people may be a sign that a farm system is weaker.

    Of course, I’d imagine that other items including the ways in which the teams treated their minor league players and staff (cough, Oakland) would also have a substantial effect.

  4. LeRoy

    I really miss Reds baseball, but I miss going through the minor league stats and watching the progress of all the Reds prospects. Doug, you have made this long season without baseball interesting but its still not close to normal. Thanks for the work.

    • Doug Gray

      It’s been real weird, that’s for sure. I’ve been trying my best to keep writing about *something* baseball related, but there’s only so much I can do. It’s going to get real weird if and when they truly just cancel the season.

  5. kinsm

    These figures are no different than any other year. The past 5 years have averaged about ~150 NDFA signings per season.

    • Doug Gray

      Sure. But the big difference is that there were only 3-6 players drafted by each organization this year instead of 38-42.

      • kinsm

        Correct, but many people speculated that the number of NDFA’s would be exceptionally higher this year due to the fact that they only drafted ~150 some players. I remember reading comments about 2 to 4 times that many in fact. I stated from the beginning that such comments were nonsensical; especially given NCAA’s decision to give an additional year of eligibility and MiLB contraction. Any player worth a damn wasn’t going to be signing for 20K$ or less as an NDFA this year.

        In all, we are going to see roughly 650 additional players return to/or go to college this year and play. Those players will be spread out over hundreds of schools. The idea that many people put forth that those schools can’t adequately take them in was and still is BS, with the exception of a few dozen elite D1 programs no school was going to struggle to add those players worthy of playing collegiality.

        For the record, I’m not insinuating that you were one of those posters I subsequently discussed.