Do You Feel a Draft?

The landscape of the annual amateur baseball draft has changed this season as compared to years past. The new collective bargaining agreement that baseball enacted had several updated provisions contained within it that modified the structure behind the draft. Draft choices are still awarded based upon reverse standings from the previous year but little else remained the same. Previously teams had nearly an entire year to negotiate with their draft choices. If the player and the team were unable to reach an agreement the player would re-enter the draft and the team received little value in return. This gave a lot of incentive to the player’s representative to stall the signing since most teams would not want to come up with nothing to show for their draft choice especially if that choice was high in the draft order. Agents basically held teams hostage demanding substantial signing bonuses or major league contracts for players who had never played professionally. The escalating costs of signing draft choices along with the prolonged nature of the signing period were points that Commissioner Bud Selig wanted to mitigate. As a result these became negotiating points with the player’s union and changes were implemented. The 2007 draft became the first where these rules were in effect.

Now rather than having an entire year to negotiate with a player; a team had until midnight Eastern Time on August 15 to sign the draft choice. If an agreement could not be reached the team would lose the rights to that player. This gives high school and junior college draft choices an opportunity to try and work out a deal and if that cannot occur they can still enroll in school and continue their education. Personally I think that is appropriate rather than having these kids miss out on an opportunity to attend classes or fall practices if they are going to continue onto a collegiate career. If a team cannot sign their draft choice they will be awarded a comparable choice in next year’s draft. For example, the Arizona Diamondbacks had the ninth selection in the 2007 draft. If they failed to sign Jarrod Parker by the deadline they would be awarded the tenth selection in the 2008 draft as compensation. This gives the teams a little more leverage when dealing with a player’s agent. The commissioner’s office provided each team with a recommended salary slot and signing bonus. They hoped it provide some semblance of consistency to the draft choices and perhaps give both the player representative and the team a baseline from which to begin negotiation. Of course each party looked at these numbers differently. The teams and the commissioner felt these slots would be the ceiling for negotiations while the players and agents viewed them more as the floor of where salaries should begin.

Since the June draft there has been very little in the media regarding how negotiations were progressing between the Arizona Diamondbacks and representatives for right-handed pitcher Jarrod Parker. Personally I was hoping he would sign early and be assigned to the Missoula Osprey of the Pioneer League. Not only would that give him an opportunity to start his professional career but it would give me an opportunity to scout his abilities since I was in the vicinity of the Pioneer League a couple of times this summer. But as in years past the negotiations between the team and their top draft choice lingered on throughout the summer. This is not anything new since negotiations went the distance with shortstop Stephen Drew, outfielder Justin Upton, and last year with pitcher Max Scherzer. It was looking ominously like the Diamondbacks would be selecting again next season with Parker going on to college. Throughout the day yesterday I kept my eye on the various news agencies trying to see whether there would be a deal struck and I kept coming up hitless with no news. Other last minute deals were being announced but nothing from the Diamondbacks. Finally with 90 minutes before the deadline struck the Arizona Diamondbacks announced that they had reached an agreement with Parker. The deal was slightly above the slotted amount the commissioner had suggested but overall it appeared to be a good deal for both parties involved. Based upon the date of the deal Parker will not report to a team this late in the season but will instead prepare to attend instructional league in October in Tucson. Welcome to the franchise Jarrod Parker. We wish you the best of luck in a speedy rise through minor leagues and a long career at Chase Field.

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