There has been much debate this season about the value of losing. In sports like basketball and football where a draft pick can make an immediate impact there has always been the philosophy that you want to be really horrible or really good and that anywhere in between punishes your ability to improve your club. For years under the old CBA teams could circumvent the competitive balance measures such as free agent compensation by spending all the money they wanted in the draft and internationally while blatantly ignoring unenforceable edicts from the commissioner’s office.
Under the new CBA there are hard slots for the pools that teams can use to pay for amatuer talent. Teams can exceed the pool quantities but it comes at the price of essentially removing yourself from participating in that market for the following year. Additionally, the value of these slots is determined by finishing order of the previous year, with larger gaps near the top (the difference between the 1st and 2nd pick of the draft in 2013 was 1.082 million, compared to the $27,000 difference between picks 29 and 30). The extension of this into the international market doubles the incentives for teams to lose as many games as possible.
Briefly stepping away from slot values, protected picks are a large incentive for teams that want to lose, but even forfeiting a second round pick and losing the slot money associated with that pick is not an enviable position for any team. Due to the loss of the large compensation round the #10 team lost the #47 overall pick last year which would have been in the middle of the old compensation round. There are legitimate arguments to be made about the value of free agent, but the current system punishes a team for trying to acquire talent in multiple ways.
So how does this affect the Phillies as they have already put themselves in the position to receive a protect draft pick? The money differences towards the top of the 1st round are not insignificant. With 3 games to go the Phillies find themselves with the chance to receive the #7 pick and slot value. Here are the value differences using the 2013 value of the slots for the various outcomes available (only using 1st round picks due to uncertainty with compensation picks)
|Draft (1st round pick)||Net Change||International||Net Change|
|#15/16 (Phillies 2013)*||$2,299,300||$946,700||$2,289,700||$890,200|
*The Phillies received the #16 pick in the draft because of the Pirates compensation pick, and the #15 slot in the international market.
The first thing to remember there is that in the draft that is a difference all the way down, so the $300,000 difference in the first is closer to a full difference of $500,000 over the course of the draft. If that doesn’t seem like much, that is the bonus the Phillies handed Jarred Cosart in 2008. In the draft much of this overage is sucked up into appropriate slot bonuses for your picks, but in that case you are getting a player three slots better for 40 rounds of the draft and you are paying for that, so it is not a consequence to throw away.
In the international market it is a larger deal. The difference between the #7 and #10 slots is the bonus the Phillies gave to Jose Pujols a Top 20 International Signing in 2012. In other words, losing just 3 more games over the course of the year is the difference between getting a free top international signing, and missing out. Additionally those international slots are tradeable commodities and as the Astros showed you can use them to trade for a closer to the majors minor league talent.
All in all the difference in losing can have a profound impact in the ability for a team to acquire talent. Don’t blame teams for tanking or fans for wanting to tank, because in reality they are trying to work within the system created. Be mad at the owners for making the league less competitive in the name of supressing amatuer bonuses.