Buy­ing Amer­i­can is good deal

There are lim­its for bonuses for drafted play­ers, but not for in­ter­na­tional ones.

Los Angeles Times - - INSIDE BASEBALL - By Bill Shaikin bill.shaikin@latimes.com Twit­ter: @Bil­lShaikin

Dansby Swan­son, se­lected by the Ari­zona Di­a­mond­backs with the top pick in last week’s base­ball draft, is 21. The sign­ing bonus rec­om­mended for Swan­son by Ma­jor League Base­ball: $8.6 mil­lion.

Yoan Mon­cada was 19 when the Bos­ton Red Sox signed the Cuban in­fielder in Fe­bru­ary. His bonus: $31.5 mil­lion.

The Mon­cada sign­ing ran­kled small-mar­ket teams, ir­ri­tated that a fi­nan­cial pow­er­house could af­ford not only the high bonus but also the 100% tax— roughly dou­bling the to­tal cost — that went with it.

The deal also an­gered ma­jor league play­ers, ag­gra­vated by a sys­tem in which an am­a­teur player can add mil­lions to his bonus sim­ply be­cause he was born out­side the United States.

“It’s not right that a Cuban 19yr old gets paid 30m and the best 19yr old in the en­tire USA gets prob 1/6th of that,” Tampa Bay Rays pitcher Drew Smyly wrote on Twit­ter. Smyly later said he was crit­i­ciz­ing the sys­tem, not Mon­cada or the con­tract he got.

Base­ball in­tro­duced its draft in 1965 — Dodgers broad­caster and for­mer out­fielder Rick Mon­day was the first pick of the first draft — as away to curb bid­ding wars and al­low each team a fairer shot at high school and col­lege tal­ent.

In re­cent years — in con­cert with the play­ers’ union — base­ball has lim­ited how much each team can pay its draft picks each year.

The league as­signs each pick — or “slot” — a rec­om­mended value. The team can sign a player for more than slot value but must make up for that by sign­ing other play­ers for less. Oth­er­wise, the league as­sesses fines and/or the loss of draft picks.

Com­mis­sioner Rob Man­fred has ad­vo­cated ex­tend­ing the draft to cover play­ers such as Mon­cada, and the own­ers are ex­pected to pro­pose an in­ter­na­tional draft next year, when they ne­go­ti­ate a new la­bor agree­ment. The union does not rep­re­sent am­a­teur play­ers, but changes to the draft must be ne­go­ti­ated be­cause freeagent com­pen­sa­tion in­volves draft picks.

Scott Bo­ras, the agent whose draft-de­fy­ing strate­gies prompted much of the push to limit spend­ing on am­a­teur play­ers in the United States, won­dered how own­ers could claim to im­ple­ment a world­wide draft.

“Is it the Venezue­lan and Do­mini­can draft?” Bo­ras said.

The draft cur­rently cov­ers high school and col­lege play­ers in the U.S., Canada and Puerto Rico. Mex­i­can am­a­teurs gen­er­ally are signed though ar­range­ments with Mex­i­can League clubs, and Ja­panese and South Kore­ans al­most al­ways sign with a pro club in their home coun­try be­fore con­sid­er­ing a con­tract with an MLB club.

Ben Badler, the in­ter­na­tional base­ball ex­pert at Base­ball Amer­ica, said it is not known whether the Cuban gov­ern­ment would al­low Mon­cada or other teenagers to par­tic­i­pate in an in­ter­na­tional draft.

“They’re still go­ing to want to keep their league up and run­ning,” Badler said.

It also un­clear whether all base­ball ex­ec­u­tives want an in­ter­na­tional draft, even if their own­ers might en­joy the cost sav­ings.

Day­ton Moore, the gen­eral man­ager of the small­mar­ket Kansas City Roy­als, said he and his scouts rel­ish the op­por­tu­nity to un­cover a raw player and sign him im­me­di­ately. The Roy­als signed catcher Salvador Perez from Venezuela for $65,000 and ace Yor­dano Ven­tura from the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic for $27,000, he said.

“It’s great mo­ti­va­tion for your scout­ing staff,” Moore said. “I don’t feel like we get beat on eval­u­a­tion of tal­ent. I don’t feel like we get beat on work ethic. I don’t feel like we get beat in thehome [visit].

“Eco­nom­i­cally, it’s hard to com­pete and win in some of these ne­go­ti­a­tions. But we don’t want to make ex­cuses for our mar­ket. If some­one else signs Mon­cada, good for them.”

How­ever, un­til a kid from San Pe­dro, Calif., can make the same as a kid from San Pe­dro de Ma­coris in the Do­mini­can Re­pub­lic, there is the ap­pear­ance of in­equity.

“I see both sides,” Dodgers pitcher Bran­don McCarthy said. “We haven’t re­ally pushed that as a union. That’s sort of the bed we’ve made.

“But you can see it’s an­noy­ing. A su­per­star Amer­i­can kid has as lot­ted draft bonus and an in­ter­na­tional kid makes a de­cent big-league con­tract straight away.”

In 2009, be­fore base­ball lim­ited how much own­ers could pay drafted play­ers, Stephen Stras­burg came out of San Diego State as one of the most dec­o­rated pitch­ers in col­lege history. The Washington Na­tion­als signed him for $15 mil­lion, the most money guar­an­teed to a drafted player.

Stras­burg could have re­ceived much more if he could have ne­go­ti­ated with any team, not only the Na­tion­als, who ob­tained ex­clu­sive rights by draft­ing him. In Jan­uary, the Na­tion­als spent $210 mil­lion on free-agent pitcher Max Scherzer.

Scherzer, 30, earned his deal by pitch­ing well for seven sea­sons in the ma­jor leagues. But Stras­burg might have been a bet­ter in­vest­ment at 21, when the Na­tion­als signed him out of col­lege. Sta­tis­tics show play­ers gen­er­ally are most suc­cess­ful in their 20s, not their 30s, but Stras­burg was not a free agent.

“Can you imag­ine what he would have got­ten?” Dodgers ace Clay­ton Ker­shaw said. “He would have got what Scherzer got.”

‘Eco­nom­i­cally, it’s hard to com­pete and win in some of these ne­go­ti­a­tions. But we don’t want to make ex­cuses for our mar­ket.’

Day­ton Moore, gen­eral man­ager of

the small-mar­ket Kansas City Roy­als

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