During the last Collective Bargaining Agreement, MLB made sweeping changes to the draft and international markets, restricting what teams could spend, and imposing harsh fines on teams that went over their budgeted amounts. A big factor for the changes in the draft was due to the Pittsburgh Pirates signing Josh Bell for $5 M in the second round, and spending just under $50 M over a four-year span. The Red Sox were rumored to be one of the teams upset, specifically over Bell, since his letter about how he wouldn’t sign with anyone chased several teams away.
So it’s only fitting that with the new rules, the Red Sox spent $31.5 M today on 19-year-old Cuban infielder Yoan Moncada. The new rules from the last CBA result in a 100% tax on that amount, which means the Red Sox are paying $63 M for one player. Who is 19. Just one year older than Josh Bell was when he signed for $58 M less and broke the draft.
The Red Sox will be penalized beyond the $31.5 M tax. They won’t be able to sign anyone for over $300,000 during the next two signing periods. And $31.5 M is a big sum of money. As an example, $27 M bought the Pirates one year of A.J. Burnett, one year of Corey Hart, one year of Antonio Bastardo, one year of Francisco Cervelli (who is arbitration eligible next year), one year of Sean Rodriguez, one year of Radhames Liz, and Jung-ho Kang’s entire guaranteed contract. Or, another way to look at it is that the Pirates got three years of Francisco Liriano for just $8.5 M more than the taxes the Red Sox are paying.
This is a much different situation than Josh Bell, and not from a money perspective. When the Pirates drafted Bell, they had exclusive negotiating rights. The Red Sox and Yankees couldn’t come in with a better offer. Bell had the option to either sign with the Pirates, or wait a few years until he was draft eligible again, at which point he’d only be able to sign with the team that drafted him.
MLB brought harsh penalties to teams that went over-budget in the draft. And teams still have exclusive negotiating rights with the draft picks. The result is that we’re less likely to see another Bell situation, where a team can take a first round talent in the second round, and pay him whatever they want to get him to sign, all because they are focused on investing in the draft more than other teams.
Meanwhile, the international market has taxes and restrictions, but it’s a free-for-all, where anyone can sign any player, and can sign any amount of top players. We’ve seen the Yankees go crazy by signing a large number of the best ranked prospects, going over their bonus pool in the process. The Red Sox just signed Moncada, but they were already over their bonus pool. This illustrates the problem with this market.
Teams like the Red Sox and Yankees don’t necessarily have to rely on prospects. They don’t have to pour money into their development system. They don’t need to place a large focus on the draft and international markets every year, because they can just build their teams through free agency. They also don’t have to worry about taxes, since they can spend much more than any realistic tax they’d see under this system. This combination allows them to go all out every few years, loading up on the top players that year, and seeing no downside to their future MLB teams by being penalized for this approach.
This is something that MLB needs to fix. Ideally, this move would break the international market, just like Josh Bell broke the draft. The international market could use a draft, and some sort of spending limit, in order to make things a little more even. If Yoan Moncada were born in the US, he’d probably be going to Arizona, and for a lot less than $63 M total money spent. It doesn’t make much sense that he can go to any team and receive four or five times the amount a US top pick would receive, all because he’s from another country. And it doesn’t make sense that teams like the Yankees and Red Sox are allowed to dominate the international market without changes being made. It would be the right thing to do, especially after changes were made to respond to teams like the Pirates spending big in the draft.
**We’re down to less than 200 hard copy books of the 2015 Prospect Guide from the most recent shipment. We’ve already sold more than last year’s total, and I don’t anticipate ordering another shipment this year. That means once the current batch is gone, the hard copy version will be sold out. You can order your copy of the book on the products page of the site.
**There wasn’t much action today on the field, so the pictures and videos were limited. I did have one video on Instagram of Pedro Alvarez doing one hop drills, which can be seen below.
**How Elias Diaz Quickly Became The Catcher Of The Future. I’ve been having fun making the video features, and this was my favorite one so far. Thanks to everyone who subscribed to the YouTube channel after last night’s request. The result is that we were able to get a new address at http://youtube.com/c/piratesprospects. The old one still works as well, but it’s nice to send people to an account that has the site name. You can still subscribe by going to that link, and if you do, you’ll be alerted when we post a new video.
**The Pirates Believe Jung-Ho Kang Will Eventually Be An Everyday Player. He’s not going to start right away, but it seems like he could be the top depth option at second, short, or third. As for whether he’ll take over for Mercer, the article once again points out how he’ll need more than offense for that to happen.
**Is Vance Worley The Most Under-Rated Pitcher In The Pirates’ Rotation? I asked this question in the title, then got a bunch of comments criticizing Charlie Morton and wanting to get rid of him. Basically, I forgot that Morton owns the belt as the most under-rated pitcher in the rotation.
**Draft Prospect Watch: Tyler Jay Extends Shutout Streak. John Dreker takes a look at the draft prospect action from this past weekend.