Future Players Take a Big Hit as M.L.B. Navigates a Crisis

Future Players Take a Big Hit as M.L.B. Navigates a Crisis

“When you talk about the 350th or 450th best player in the draft, you’re talking about a darn good baseball player,” the agent Scott Boras said on Friday. “This guy may not be a big leaguer, but he’s a very skilled minor leaguer who can play well and allow a premium major leaguer to develop earlier and to develop competently because they’re playing against a higher level of talent.”

Some prospects, of course, do become major league stars despite being low draft picks, including Paul Goldschmidt (eighth round), Jacob deGrom (ninth round) and Albert Pujols (13th round). With a shorter draft, some potential future stars might leave the game.

“Look at those college seniors today,” Boras said. “They only got to play like 15 percent of their season, they’re probably going to lose their eligibility, and now they come into a structure where, anybody passed over by the draft, the maximum a team can sign him for is $20,000 — instead of the $125,000 they had before. If you’re in college on a partial scholarship and you’ve got loans, you’re going to get a bonus that is so minimal I’m not sure you can afford to live in the minor leagues.”

Fewer rounds would also give teams less money to use on even higher draft choices, because the bonus pool allotted for those rounds would disappear. In normal years, teams can strategize the draft by choosing some players who will sign for less than their slot value and then using those savings on elite players seeking above-slot bonuses.

Friday’s agreement also specifies that the overall bonus pool will remain at 2019 levels for the next two drafts, instead of rising roughly 3 percent each year. To Boras, it was a shortsighted decision.

“You know how we have D.H.s in the game — well, the draft is the owners’ D.V. — the designated victim,” he said. “That’s who they are: They’re the D.V.’s of baseball. They know that they have no representation, and it hurts the game, because I don’t think they see that these great athletes have choices.”

The great athletes are sidelined now, all across sports. The playing field will be different when they return.

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