Pushing back amateur draft could create problems

 Major League Baseball’s amateur player draft annually takes place during the first half of June over a three-day stretch. Clubs then have approximately one month’s time to sign the drafted players. The 2014 draft took place between June 8-to-10 with a deadline for players to sign on July 17.

According to Peter Gammons, NCAA coaches and MLB officials have come to a ‘general agreement’ to push back the draft to July 1 and shorten the signing deadline to July 15.

This agreement can not yet be made official until the MLBPA approves the agreement and it is added to the collective bargaining agreement. Mike Axisa of CBS Sports points out that the union’s responsibility is to players on the 40-man roster and are unlikely to show resistance to this change.

The main purpose for pushing the draft back is for the completion of the College World Series to occur prior to the start of the draft. The CWS typically runs during the middle of June and the two events can cause distractions for participating players.

On the surface this move appears logical. Many top projected draft eligibles take part in the CWS and teams love seeing how a potential prospect handles the pressure of playing on a big stage. The completion of the college season before the draft only makes sense. In fact, that much has been discussed for several years now. With more time to analyze players, too, team executives arguably would be able to make better drafting decisions. But this isn’t the only aspect up for consideration.

Pushing the draft back to July 1 will interfere with short season minor league teams. For the Seattle Mariners, the Everett Aqua Sox of the Northwest League and rookie ball teams the Arizona League Mariners and Pulaski Mariners would be affected.

These teams are typically made up of draftees from the current year and have seasons starting in late June. A July 1 draft would mean that clubs would have to fill rosters with temporary players until the drafted players are signed and eligible to play. Rosters could be filled with independent league players or with other young prospects who may not be ready to compete at that level.

Having to find and sign enough players to fill roster for only a couple weeks of games almost seems like a waste of time. Getting players to commit may be difficult as they know they will be replaced by draftees in a matter of time. And let’s face it; though likely better than independent ball life, minor league ball life is seldom desired.

This scenario could, however, provide opportunities for players who may not receive one otherwise. Even in a short period of time teams can often determine if a player has tools that are worth developing. But at the same time, teams would probably prefer to avoid the personnel logistics that would come into play.

Of course an easy fix for that problem would be starting those seasons later, but as Axisa points out, many clubs rely on unused college dormitories for housing players. Therefore if the season runs into September, players would have to be housed elsewhere. Shortening the season is improbable given the potential lack of revenue. Can not imagine affiliates would allow that to happen.

There’s been talk about an international draft being formed to cut down the costs on international imports — see one Tomas, Yasmani — and the owners would love that. But it remains to be seen if such a thing is actually feasible. There’s nothing to suggest the formation of an international draft is imminent, but the potential of one could be a factor in moving the amateur draft.

Last year we saw two free agents who received and turned down qualifying offers wait until after the draft to sign new contracts. After the completion of the draft, the signing team would no longer have to forfeit a draft pick. For both Kendrys Morales and Stephen Drew — who have both already been signed for the 2015 season — waiting turned out to do more harm than good in the context of the 2014 season.

Both players struggled mightily and may have cost themselves millions of free agent dollars. Morales may argue as he received a pro-rated portion of the $14.1 million qualifying offer he turned down in 2014 and signed a two-year, $17 million deal with the Kansas City Royals this winter — nearly the same value as the three-year and approximately $30 million contract the M’s are believed to have offered him last winter.

However we are very unlikely to see another qualified player wait out the draft before signing a free agent contract. James Shields is the lone free agent remaining who will require a draft pick to sign, and there is no doubt that he’ll have a lucrative deal signed before pitchers and catchers report in one month’s time.

All this and we’ve barely mentioned how the draft eligible players themselves will be affected by the change.

Many high school players under consideration for the draft also receive scholarship offers from universities and colleges across the country. The decision to go pro or head to post secondary and forego a signing bonus is more than likely the biggest decision these kids will have to make. Two weeks is still plenty of time, but as is often the case, the shorter decision period can increase stress on what is already a difficult decision.

Per NCAA stipulations, undrafted players are not allowed to have representation from an agent. They may speak to an advisor, but typically enter the draft with less than adequate information, particularly on the financial side, for making the decision. Brendan Gawlowski detailed this in a piece for Prospect Insider last summer.

Perhaps that matter can be solved and shrinking the negotiating period becomes less of an issue. Better programs for providing education about the process to draftees is likely needed anyways, and could be of particular benefit in a situation like this.

There are some legitimate reasons for moving the draft. The other major sports hold their respective drafts after the completion of the amateur season, and professional season for that matter. But the effect on short season minor league teams is problematic and will have to be solved so the advantages of moving the draft can be seen.

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