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Deadline Comes and Everybody Signs

Matt WietersThe deadline has come and gone for drafted players to sign, and when all was said and done every player in the first round signed. Like I said in my previous post, deadlines have a way of making things happen, and it appears this one is no exception. Many deals came down to the final day, and even a few (Moustakas and Vitters) came down to the final minutes. So, early indications are that the new August 15 deadline did not stop teams and players from coming to agreements despite shortening the negotiation window from about a year to about two months.

However, did it really give teams more bargaining power? That is much harder to say. Major League Baseball uses a slotting system like the NBA does for its draft, though it is not nearly as strict as basketball's. In the NBA, the slot is the value of the rookie contract. There is essentially no negotiating. In baseball, the slotted values are only suggestions. This year, the MLB's suggested salaries were across the board about 10 percent lower than their suggested values from a year ago, which is odd considering the general trend of everything fiscal in the game is skyrocketing upwards. Not surprisingly, players who signed earlier were very close to the slot numbers. Players that signed today got anywhere between a little bit more than suggested and a ton more than suggested.

The August 15 deadline is a great change, but I'm not sure it gives teams more bargaining power. Thanks to the new guidelines for compensatory picks, teams in theory have much less to lose if they cannot sign a draft pick, and as a result should be more willing to stand their ground. However, judging from the deals that David Price and Rick Porcello, as well as some of the early indications about Moustakas's contract, teams are still willing to bend backwards to get picks signed, and there's not much baseball can do about it. Even if the Devil Rays would have been compensated with the second overall draft pick next year, could they really afford to not sign the first overall draft pick? Even with such rich compensation, it would look really bad. The same goes for the Royals, and really any team that is perpetually rebuilding.

It will be interesting to see if teams switch up their strategy next year after dealing with the new rules this year. Judging from how things unfolded, high-schoolers picked high in the draft will be the most difficult to sign under the new guidelines. With the exceptions of Price and Wieters, all the high picks who waited to sign were prep stars. Really, high-schoolers have little incentive to sign before the bitter end because they system's set up gives them no reason to. Teams picking high in the draft generally are not that good, so they already are more inclined to bend further in negotiations because they really need the influx of talent in the system, as well as some good publicity. In addition to that, high-schoolers picked have the option of going to junior college and then re-entering the draft next year, or to go to some four-year university on a full-ride baseball scholarship and re-entering a few years down the road. It's the way it has always been, but now the negotiating process is much quicker, which doesn't allow teams to focus on one individual player's negotiations for as long as in the past. Whether that makes a difference in future years is unknown yet.

Even if the deadline does nothing to give teams more bargaining power, it still is very good for everyone involved. It eliminates long holdouts, which hung over franchises in years past and made it difficult for them to formulate a solid draft strategy until only one week beforehand. As for players, they know well before the next baseball season starts whether they are a pro or will remain an amateur. If this has any impact on college teams, it will be a positive one. August 15 has a new importance in baseball, and it appears to be a change for the better.