FanGraphs: How should the rule on protecting draft picks be defined?

Michael Baron , Contributor

mlb-logoIn a post to FanGraphs, Dave Cameron writes about the Mets and their unprotected first round pick in the 2013 first-year player draft and asks:

“Is the rule designed to promote competitive balance — as MLB has always claimed — or is it simply a tax on player salaries, designed to drive down the market price for the top tier of free agents? If it’s the former, then the Mets can argue that the spirit of the law is to provide non-competitive teams with an advantage in the free agent market, and that they shouldn’t be deprived of that right simply because of the Pirates failure to sign their own first round pick last summer.”

Cameron believes that if the league rules in favor of the Mets, it’s a narrow enough exception that it’s unlikely to impact other teams this winter.


Earlier this week, Sandy Alderson told Kevin Burkhardt on SNY’s Mets Hot Stove he is more concerned about losing the draft pick for a player requiring draft compensation than he is about the dollars or years required to land such a player; it’s not just about the talent that may be selected during that round, but it also impacts how much a team can spend in the draft due to newly imposed rules in the recent CBA.

Yesterday, Peter Gammons said on MLB Network while he gets the sense the league will protect the Mets first-round pick, the Mets will ultimately not surrender that pick if the league stands it’s ground.


Cameron asks the ultimate question in this debate, and it’s the point the Mets are reportedly going to try and argue, should they move closer to signing Bourn. On the one hand, I agree with the Mets in that they did have the tenth worth record last year, and it’s not their problem the Pirates failed to sign Mark Appel, their first round pick last year. At the same time, the rule could also be designed to keep player salaries down, as Cameron suggests. In the end, the rule is undoubtedly clear, and making an exception sets a precedent on the issue. Again, that may or may not be the right thing to do whether other teams deem it fair or unfair, but if the rule is designed to give the second and third tier teams a better chance at improving, then it’s logical to believe the league should rule in the Mets favor. In my view, there isn’t an unfair ruling here because both arguments are perfectly justified.

I wonder if the league and the union will come together and work to better define the rule to address a problem like this, regardless of the outcome. As I said, the rule is perfectly clear right now, but it doesn’t take into account a situation like the one the Mets, Pirates and the league have encountered. And, it’s bound to come up again – it came up the first year the new CBA was in effect, and the next team who experiences this issue might feel the same way the Mets do on the matter, even if they now feel the league shouldn’t waver.

If the league stands it’s ground, I’m glad Alderson plans to stand his ground. The cost of losing the draft pick includes talent and monies associated with the draft and their pool, and the Mets simply aren’t yet in a position to be sacrificing that for second generation contracts. Doing so deviates from Alderson’s plan and vision from building a sustainable product and can counteract a lot of what he’s accomplished in rebuilding his farm system. That doesn’t mean he can continue to sit and watch free agents and talent in trade come off the board, especially as they go towards improving other teams in the NL East. That alone can serve as a countermeasure towards his plan and vision for the Mets. But right now, they still need to accumulate for their farm system, especially position players at the top of the organization. When that part of the puzzle is complete and the Mets are ready to contend for the long-term, that’s when they can start sacrificing picks for the right players. I feel like that time is coming sooner rather than later…

Click here to see the rule as it's defined in the new Collective Bargaining Agreement...

CBA_Draft

In regards to the possibility of the Mets signing free-agent OF Michael Bourn, he received a qualifying offer from the Braves, and so his new team would lose their first round draft pick in the upcoming draft unless they are among the top ten picks which are typically reserved for the ten worst teams in the prior season. Prior to the new CBA being agreed upon, the first 15 picks in the amateur were protected; the new CBA now only protects the first ten picks.

In addition, draft compensation is no longer defined by free agent rankings by the Elias Sports Bureau – it is based on whether or not a free agent received a qualifying offer from his former team.

While the Mets had the tenth worst record in 2012, the Pirates failed to sign their first round draft choice in 2012, and so they have been awarded the tenth overall pick in the upcoming draft, bumping the Mets to the 11th pick which is unprotected.