Withabout to begin (7 p.m. ET on Monday), this is the time of the year when people suggest ways to make it better. Most proposals call for a tame tweak or two, with a few daring souls requesting baseball abolish the draft and make all eligible players free agents. Agent Scott Boras falls in between. On Monday, he rattled off some of his own ideas, noting that baseball has an incentives problem.
As reported by Michael Silverman of the Boston Herald, Boras feels baseball should not reward teams for losing. Rather, Boras would like to see baseball restructure how draft picks are handed out, incentivizing teams to try — even when the postseason berth is out of the question.
“How you resolve that is simple. If you don’t win 72 games or so you don’t get a top 5 pick, if you don’t win 70 games or so, your draft status falls outside the top 10 picks. You’re basically falling outside the draft if you’re non-competitive. You must win a certain level of games annually to get the requisite positioning in the draft that your club would normally acquire. If you don’t win the requisite number of games, you fall outside the top five, or top 10, pick.”
That’s just part of Boras’s proposal. He would also like to see low-revenue clubs receive extra picks for winning their division — again, as a way to encourage teams to field the best possible club. You’ll have to click through for some of his other ideas and comments about the draft.
Because it’s Boras, some will hand wave off his suggestions without deeper consideration — chalking up his intent to generating as many potential suitors as possible for his clients. And while there’s probably merit in that thinking, there’s merit in what he’s saying about as well.
Bottoming out for draft picks is a strategy that is great for everyone involved but the fans. The general managers who do it receive years and years of job security without having to show on-the-field results. Meanwhile, owners can spend less money on the big-league product — and do so without worrying about having to spend arm-and-leg for amateur players, since bonus caps have done the work for them.
Fans, on the other hand, have to sit through years of bad baseball in order to see any benefits. As freelance writer Marc Normandin put it in his latest labor-focused newsletter:
This focus on cheap over everything, on surplus value over filling needs, has hurt the on-field product, which hurts attendance and interest, which is all terrible for the long-term health of MLB. The draft serves just one master, and that’s the wallets of owners: all the damage it causes is expected and collateral for these guys, and it’s both a short- and long-term issue to solve for the people who aren’t them.
What Boras is proposing — making teams win a minimum amount of games to receive their precious high draft picks — wouldn’t necessarily solve the issues at hand. It may, however, prevent baseball from having four teams on pace for 100 losses on draft day. And if it increases the value of a marginal win — and the number of teams competing for free agents repped by Mr. Boras — then so be it.