2017 MLB Draft Slots And Bonus Pools
The Twins will have the first pick in the 2017 draft and the largest bonus pool, giving them a financial advantage over every other team. But that advantage is significantly less than it has been in past years.
After Major League Baseball decided to compress the difference between slots at the top of the draft in the latest Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Twins’ top draft slot is set at $7,770,700, according to the final official slots that were recently sent to all 30 major league teams.
The Twins’ allotment is roughly $1.25 million less than what the Phillies were slotted for the top pick in last year’s draft. The Reds’ second pick ($7,193,200) is a $569,700 reduction from last year. But at the Padres’ third pick, the slot allotment is actually $157,000 higher than last year’s. Every pick from third to 60th is actually a higher allotment than last year before it switches over again, with lower slots throughout the rest of the top 10 rounds.
This adjustment will change the incentives and the bargaining power at the top of the draft. The Astros worked a deal with Carlos Correa at the top of the 2012 draft (the first under the new slotting rules) and used the savings on his deal to land Lance McCullers and Rio Ruiz to slot-busting deals later on in the draft. In the five drafts held under the current rules, only once has the top pick in the draft received the largest bonus (Dansby Swanson in 2015).
And no player has come close to receiving the full value of the first pick in those five years. The signing bonus record under the current system is the $6,708,400 Kris Bryant received as the second pick in the 2013 draft. Carlos Rodon (third pick, 2014) is the only other player to receive more than $6.5 million under the current rules, even though the slot for the top spot has been at $7.2 million or more in each of the past five drafts.
Teams are assuredly delving deep into game theory to figure out what is the best approach to using the new slots, but there are some obvious adjustments to come. For one, the teams picking at the top have much less leverage than they had under the slots of previous years. Last year, the team picking at the top had a nearly $2 million advantage over the team picking second in last year’s draft and a massive $4.3 million advantage over the team picking fourth.
That massive difference meant a player who was in the mix to go 1-1 in recent years knew that if he turned down the offer at No. 1 and fell just a few spots to fourth or fifth, he was assured of getting significantly less money, even if the team picking No. 1 offered him a deal well below slot. Since these rules began in 2012, no player taken after the third pick has landed a deal of $5 million or more–Riley Pint’s $4.8 million bonus as the fourth pick in 2016 and Kohl Stewart’s $4.544 million as the fourth pick in 2013 are the only players taken fourth or later to land a bonus larger than $4.5 million.
But in the top three picks, 12 of the 14 players who have signed from 2012 to 2016 have landed bonuses of $4.8 million or more. So under the slots until this year, there was a massive incentive to work out a deal in the top three picks.
This year, there’s much less danger financially for a player who slides from the top pick to even sixth or seventh. Last year, the Brewers had only $4,382,200 slotted for the fifth pick. This year, the Diamondbacks could offer $5 million to a player they pick at pick seven without going above their slot.
The Twins have the largest total allotment with $14,156,800 but the Reds aren’t far behind at $13,658,400. The Cardinals have the smallest allotment ($2,176,000) after they forfeited their first pick to sign free agent Dexter Fowler and then were ordered to send their second-round pick (pick 56) and their supplemental second round pick (pick 75) to the Astros as penalty for former scouting director Chris Correa’s hacking into the Astros’ database. St. Louis’ first pick is not until pick 94.