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Baseball Analysis  Mike McCann / Minor Leagues

June 2005


By Mike McCann

There is currently a lot of talk about Stephen Drew and Jered Weaver who are both 2004 first round draft picks who haven't signed yet and are threatening not to sign with the teams that drafted them and to re-enter the draft. Their strategy is that the teams that selected them in 2004 are not offering the money that they are worth, so they will wait until 2005 and try negotiating with a different team. I don't think that this is a good strategy because I believe that it is hurting them in the long run.

I do not think that it is good for the game of baseball that players who were good in college are demanding more guaranteed money than many major league players are receiving. I'm sure that these guys will make it to the majors one day, but I think that once they prove themselves, that is when they deserve the money. I believe that they should be paid on their performance and not just their potential. I don't see how these guys can ever say that they are good role models for kids today. Maybe they could use the argument that they are standing up for what they think is right, but I don't think that one could say that getting an extra million dollars coming out of college would fit the bill.

I really think that these players are hurting their development and long term potential. They are probably good enough to jump up a few levels and make it to the majors very quickly, but I think that they will probably end up with somewhat shorter careers and less money in the end. If these guys really are as good as they think they are, they will be getting millions of dollars a year as major league players. By delaying their start a year, it will likely ultimately cost them in the end.

Both guys are represented by Scott Boras, who I'm sure you have heard of. Boras will do anything it takes to get his client a little extra money. He is more than willing to play hardball to get what he thinks his client deserves. This may have worked for him for the most part in the past, but I think that teams are tiring of his tactics. Teams need to figure out if it is worth the risk of paying more than they think they should for a Boras client, or sign a lesser player for less money.

If a player doesn't want to sign because he wants to go to college, I think that's great. I just don't like when players won't sign for the single reason of wanting more money. The idea behind the draft is that the weakest teams will be able to get the best players available to balance things out in the future. This hasn't been happening because the best players are asking for more money than the weaker teams can afford. The better players end up being signed by the teams with the most money who are generally the better teams. This is a never-ending cycle where some teams are never in contention.

I can't help but think of Matt Harrington. He was considered the top high school pitching prospect in 2000 and taken as the Rockies first round pick (7th overall). He didn't sign because they couldn't reach terms on a contract. Harrington's agent wanted more money than the Rockies were willing to offer (and more money than the first overall pick received). The following year, he was drafted in the second round by the Padres (58th overall), but he didn't sign with them either. Then drafted by Tampa Bay in 2002 (13th round, 374th overall), Cincinnati in 2003 (24th round, 711st overall) and the New York Yankees in 2004 (36th round, 1089th overall). He never signed with any of them. He played in the Northern and Central leagues, but never signed a contract with a major league team. He might be pitching in the majors now if he would have signed and worked his way through the minors. Instead, he cost himself not just the money the Rockies offered him, but the money he would have received after that.

If I were an athlete taken in the major league draft, I would want to sign within two weeks so that I could start playing in one of the short season leagues. The later a player signs, the more their development is hurt. Some players can easily overcome this challenge, but others never do. There is really no way to tell how a player's career would have gone had they made different decisions. I just think that a player's main concern should be development for the future and establishing themselves as a major league player rather than focusing on getting a huge bonus before playing a game as a professional.

Maybe this is all because I'm a bitter Phillies fan who will never forget about J.D. Drew and how he refused to sign with them. I just think that these are all examples of how the game is more dependent on money than anything else. Those in the baseball business recognize that and everyone is playing that game, but I would rather see the game played on the field instead of off the field.

I am always looking for topics to write about, so please send me an e-mail and let me know what would be interesting reading for you. Feel free to ask any questions or give an idea for a column.

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