[Updated with better information and explanation.]
[First off, if there are any of you who don’t also follow SeattleSportsInsider.com, then you should take a peek at Gordon Gross’ draft roundups and follow-ups. Here’s day one and two. And day three. And his followup on the low minors, and his followup on the high minors.]
We all sort of take it in stride when NFL teams trade a couple of lower-round picks in order to move up in the earlier rounds to get a player they want.
Of course, MLB teams can’t do that. Except that they can — kind of.
They can get guys they want by paying “above slot” (and that’s not new). What’s new is that the bonus cap requires teams to carefully “manage” their draft so as to make the above-slot payments possible.
Instead of trading picks away, teams just use them on guys they covet less, but who are willing to sign for the bare minimum bonus. They’re sort of “trading up” NFL-wise, but with money. Before the cap, there was less-systematic “trading” involved, because the dollars were only within a team’s own internal budget. There was no penalty involved.
Plus, there’s another wrinkle. [I didn’t have this quite right.] For reasons I haven’t quite fathomed, the bonus money is tied to the first 10 rounds.
You can “go over” on guys from Rounds 11-40 without penalty, but not on guys in Rounds 1-10.
Guys from Rounds 11-40 can get up to $100,000 without affecting the cap. So going “below slot” with the 11-40 guys saves nothing (just money, not cap room). If you go over $100,000 with the 11-40 guys it does count against the cap, but only the amount over $100K.
teams using if you are going to use this “trading up with dollars” technique you have to use it before Round 10 most aggressively in the earlier rounds, particularly those approaching 10. Any “above slot” money that you are going to use must come from guys signing “below slot” in Rounds 1-10.
Then, starting in Round 11, they
can once again start going after “over slot” guys again. no longer have concerns about “below slot” guys and can go back to picking players based on whom they like the best, and possibly grab some guys whom they might go “over slot” for if they have money left.
As confusing as it is, just try to think of the “below slot” picks as picks traded away in an NFL draft to “move up to get the guy they want.” They just aren’t really gone, they’re more like “underemployed.”
And the “underemployed” picks will be in Rounds 1-10, and most noticeable in the rounds approaching 10, usually 6-10 but sometimes earlier. Starting with Round 11, there is no reason to “underemploy.”
This guy, whom we will call Way-Overachiever Draft Blogger or WODB, not only has a detailed explanation of how the money-rearranging part works, he has a draft board listing 748 players! Plus he has “signability” notes predicting which guys will fall due to unwillingness to sign for near slot.
[I don’t know how doing all that for a blog would ever be worth it, so maybe he’s trying to prove something. I don’t know. But it’s a great resource and I’m glad he did it.]
Anyway, the M’s have now signed No. 2 pick Gareth Morgan for $2 million, which is about $1.3 million over slot. Everyone is assuming No. 1 Alex Jackson will come in right around slot or a bit more.
Obviously, they knew Morgan would need an over-slot bonus, and obviously they had a sense of what it would be. So they stage-managed Nos. 3-10 accordingly.
Indeed, the 7th, 8th, 9th and 10th rounds they took college seniors with no leverage to demand higher bonuses. Earlier they took guys they knew they could sign within the parameters. It does make for an odd draft experience, particularly during the rounds leading up to the 10th.
We’ll go ahead with our thumbnail commentaries in the next few posts.