One day to go, will they or won’t they?

UPDATE: There was a question as to compensation for the lost 3rd round pick, and I have confirmed that we’d get a pick in a new compensatory round between the 3rd and 4th round if we didn’t sign Workman, we wouldn’t get the same pick (ie, the 12th) in next year’s draft.

That’s the big question we face, with the signing deadline tomorrow. It’s nothing new at this point, our two best unsigned prospects are Brandon Workman and Julian Sampson, both RHP. Workman is a 3rd round pick, and if he doesn’t sign, the Phillies receive a compensation pick in next year’s draft, which I believe will come between the 3rd and 4th rounds. If Sampson does not sign, the Phillies receive nothing but a thank you note from the Commish. If you’ve been following my blog and my writings, you know where I stand on this. As a front office, you have two decisions; you either play by the unofficial rules, or you do what you want. The Commissioners Office makes recommendations on slot bonuses, but if you follow the proper path, you can sign a player for whatever you want. A lot of teams do not go against the wishes of the Commissioner, but some teams do, and the most notable team of late is the Detroit Tigers.

As you all know, the Tigers broke slot to sign Cameron Maybin in 2005, and they did it again with Andrew Miller last year. Miller was the consensus #1 overall pick, but dropped to Detroit because of bonus demands. The Tigers snapped him up, paid him his money, and he’s already contributed at the big league level. This year, Rick Porcello was the consensus #2 pick behind David Price, and he tumbled down the board because of bonus demands in the Josh Beckett neighborhood. Well, he got to Detroit, and again they took the chance, and it now appears they are going to sign him for somewhere around $7.7 million dollars, a sum which a lot of teams probably won’t spend on their entire draft. Is it any surprise that Detroit lost 119 games in 2003 and then won a pennant in 2006? If you don’t spend money on young talent, you won’t improve. Look at teams that have taken the cheap route the last few seasons, and notice they are always picking in the same spot in the draft because they don’t understand how to improve their team.

Look, I’m not saying that you should give every kid out there a million dollars to sign, that’s not realistic. Brandon Workman and Julian Sampson may very well never make it out of A ball, they might both blow out their arms. But, one of them might be the next Kyle Kendrick, or the next Joba Chamberlain, or Brett Myers. Who knows. With prospects, you seriously don’t know. But ask yourself this, isn’t it troubling that the team is willing to overpay a guy like Rod Barajas, but they aren’t prepared to roll the dice on a young prep arm that could be a difference maker in 4 years? Barajas cost the Phillies $3M this season, and for $3 million dollars, they could have taken 4 quality high school arms in rounds 4-7, signed all of them to above slot deals, and hoped one of them panned out. If even 1 of those 4 guys turns into an elite pitching prospect, you’re already getting more value than you are for signing Rod Barajas, a guy who hasn’t contributed much at all, and a guy who was surplus goods considering you already had Carlos Ruiz and Chris Coste. Some people contend that a draft budget isn’t related to the major league budget, but I think that thinking is unfounded and untrue, especially within this organization.

The Phillies have always played nice with the Commissioners Office, and that’s not surprising, considering the role of Bill Giles in the organization. But it’s time for the Phillies to realize that they have to spend money here to compete, especially when they aren’t willing to raise payroll above their self imposed $95M salary cap.

Here is a look at the bonuses confirmed for 3rd round picks, to date. The numbers were even lower than the $500,000 that I was thinking about yesterday.

3.1 Nick Barnese, RHP (High School) – $366,000
3.10 Scott Carroll, LHP (College) – $310,000
3.12 Jameson Smith, C (Comm College) – $310,000
3.14 Brandon Hicks, SS (College) – $283,500

Workman, of course, is 3.13 and is unsigned. It’s clear he won’t get slot, but what does he realistically want to sign? Here are some of the confirmed signings in the second round

2.1 Will Kline, RHP (College) – $513,000
2.12 Mike Stanton, 1B (College) – $475,000

None of the announced deals in the 2nd round are over slot by anything more than a few thousand dollars. If he’s asking for more than $500,000, then he’s basically asking for supplemental first round money. That seems optimistic to me, considering he wasn’t really a first round talent, more of a fringe guy in the 2nd or 3rd round. If this is the case, you can understand the Phillies being reluctant, but if he wants $500,000, and the slot for his spot is $310,000, is the extra $200,000 worth losing him to Texas? Sampson, on the other side of the coin, was rumored to want 3rd round money, and looking at the list above, you can see what 3rd round money is.

If I had to pick one, I’d rather have Sampson, because he is more refined than Workman and has a bit more polish. Also, if we do sign Sampson and not Workman, we get the above mentioned compensation pick. My gut feeling? We won’t sign either guy, and the Phillies will spin it as them trying their hardest, but not being able to come to terms. The reality will be, the Commissioner leaned heavy on the Phillies to not buck the trend, and the Phillies will listen. They’ve signed two guys to above slot deals in Jiwan James and Jacob Diekman, but they saved cash on Tyler Mach, and the two above slot deals were not huge deals in the neighborhood of what Workman is looking for. If the Phillies want to prove to the fans that follow this stuff that they are for real, they’ll sign both. If they want to make a step in the right direction, they’ll sign Sampson. If they again show that they just don’t get it, they’ll sign no one and give the status quo response. I guess we’ll see soon enough.

44 thoughts on “One day to go, will they or won’t they?

  1. Things seem kind of quiet. When things are quiet that’s usually when the Phillies save the money and disappoint us, hoping that nobody will notice. I have no doubt that Arbuckle and company will tell us that the drafted kid was getting bad advice from the advisor or some such thing. We lead the league in drafting kids who get bad advice. What it will really mean is yet another time that the Phillies didn’t do their homework or just aren’t sincere in their efforts to compete. If you consider draft picks and international signings, the Mets and Braves extended the distance between our clubs and the Nationals caught up.

  2. “But ask yourself this, isn’t it troubling that the team is willing to overpay a guy like Rod Barajas, but they aren’t prepared to roll the dice on a young prep arm that could be a difference maker in 4 years?”

    excellent question. the answer, for me, is yes.

  3. Hey SQUIRE. Agreed. We have the fourth best farm system in the NL East, even with the Braves raping their system for Tex. The Nats are going to improve over the next 3-4 years, I just hope we don’t sit on our hands while they do.

  4. Whats the point in the draft anyway?If certain players drop in the draft because of draft signability,or if teams dont abide by slot recommendations.I thought the draft was to assist poor teams of that year to get better,by certain teams not abiding the slot recommendations they are simply monopolizing baseball.If baseball doesnt fix this problem soon they mind as well subtract 10 teams.teams like KC,TB,Florida just to name a few cant compete with the Det,NY’s and boston of the worlds.As much as i would like the phills to sign as many picks as possible,IMO its the best thing for baseball if all teams abide by slot recommendations.

  5. The problem is, until it’s an ironclad rule that pick 1.1 signs for x dollars, teams like Detroit, Boston and New York will continue to exploit the system. If the Phillies don’t do the same, they’ll continue to be left behind in terms of the talent available to them. Either there is an ironclad rule or there isn’t. If there isn’t, then the Phillies shouldn’t just be nice to Bud Selig at the expense of acquiring talent.

  6. I think you have the compensation incorrect, from what I have heard on Draft day was this. If a player between rounds 1-3 is not signed by Aug 15th the team will receive the SAME pick the following year calling it #A. So next year what ever team recieves pick 107 Philly will follow with pick 107A.

  7. I dont look at it as being nice to Selig,but a smarter way to putting a better product out for all of baseball.I understand that there is no rule in the CBA yet.{hopefully they’ll adopt something along the lines of basketball}If there is no slotting then why even have a draft?

  8. I highly doubt that the Commissioner’s Office is pushing that hard on the Phils regarding a 3rd pick. Hell, the difference between might be only $50k or $75k tops. Considering that the premier FA in this market this upcoming offseason are looking at $20 million/year, this is peanuts to any major league club. Even bottom low-feeders like the Rays and the Pirates.

    I am sure the Commissioner’s Office is much more concerned about some of the unsigned 1st round picks.

    Guaranteed these guys don’t signed with the Phils and it has nothing to due with the Commissioner’s Office. Instead, just the management style that has predominated the Phils for the past 25 years or so.

  9. But it has everything to do with the front office. The Phillies did not take Rick Porcello. Why? Because they knew he wouldn’t sign for slot money. I did a Q/A with Jim Salisbury for the blog here right before the draft, and Salisbury mentioned that the Phillies ownership group has said they won’t bust slot because they are very much in tow with the commissioner’s office.

    Here’s how it works. If you want to sign a player to an above slot recommendation deal, you have to file the paperwork with the commissioners office. They will then call your front office and talk to the GM, explaining the need to keep bonus amounts down. If the GM continues to say the deal is going through, they will then call the team owner or a member of the ownership group and again plead with them to not go over slot. After the owner hears this, the team can either go forward and sign the player or pull back the offer. Major League Baseball can’t make you hold off on a signing bonus amount, but they can make it uncomfortable for you.

    It was written in a recent piece that the Office has also threatened teams by telling them they won’t be considered for the All Star Game in the future if they continue to break the protocol recommended by the Commissioner. The pressure there is very real, and because of the relationship Bill Giles has with Major League Baseball, I think that’s why you see the Phillies playing nice, because that is what it is, it isn’t “smart business”.

  10. This piece was absolutely outstanding.

    Failing to go out of slot to sign draft picks not only deprives the organization of needed feeder talent, it is, by almost any measure, not cost-effective and the Barajas deal (add in the Eaton and Garcia deals if you like), proves that this is so.

    So, year after year, we wait while the Yankees and Tigers of the world not only go out and spend a lot of money on free agents, but also make wise investments in young players.

    Who suffers? Well, it’s not the team’s owners, who have assembled an entertaining but high flawed major league product that sells out the stadium and generates large profits. And it is certainly not the league, which, as a whole, benefits when teams like the Phillies engage in this form of legally-sanctioned collusion.

    Rather, it is us, the fans, who suffer and have to hear excuses as to why the team did not sign a player. The excuses are, as a general matter, nonsense. Every year, it’s just the same old thing with the Phillies’ management – they do not have a commitment to winning it all and, when you see this all play out in slow motion, especially where doing the right thing by the fans could not only improve the team, but save it a lot of money, it just destroys your hope and enthusiasm as a fan.

  11. I will rip the Phills ownership to no end if they fail to sign anyone else. Since the deadline is tomorrow night, I think its only fair to give them to the deadline before we kill them any further. I understand many of us are pessimistic, and I can’t stand the Phills ownership, but I will be fair and give them until the official signing deadline.

  12. I don’t necessarily support the Phils’ decision, but I think the knee-jerk action isn’t necessarily warranted. if Workman is genuinely asking for more than he’s worth, I don’t have a problem with the Phils not signing him. negotiations are negotiations; you can’t just accede to any and every demand you get.

    and as far as the Braves supposed largess on their draft picks, note that they’re supposedly not that close to signing their third round pick (a Boras client, FWIW) either.

  13. That’s the one. Was it premium content? I thought it was, which is why I didn’t link it.

    Berger wrote this above

    I think you have the compensation incorrect, from what I have heard on Draft day was this. If a player between rounds 1-3 is not signed by Aug 15th the team will receive the SAME pick the following year calling it #A. So next year what ever team recieves pick 107 Philly will follow with pick 107A.

    I updated the post, this is incorrect. the pick comes between RD 3 and RD4

  14. Okay everyone, since we are about to hear a bunch of excuses from the Phillies, let me translate them for you in advance.

    WHEN THEY SAY – “Some kids are getting bad advice”

    WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN IS – “We have been told to stay in our bonus slot – we’ll go out of that slot just a little bit so as not to anger the Commissioner’s Office, but we won’t depart from that number substantially”

    WHEN THEY SAY – “We don’t think paying the money that was requested would be responsible.”

    WHAT THEY REALLY MEAN IS – “We really hate paying a lot of money on these drafts. There are so many rounds and the ownership group has alotted us a very strict and limited budget to sign players. We’re already over budget because we signed so many of other other picks, and the owners have told us to ‘stop the instanity’ because they think we already have a competitive team and, that’s the goal, to be competitive.”

    WHEN THEY SAY – “We have gotten burned on large bonuses before and a lot of our best players were not ‘high bonus’ picks.”

    WHAT THEY REALL MEAN IS – “Boy, have we screwed up some draft picks and signings in the past. We gave those asian pitchers $5 million bucks and neither ever made it to AAA. And, yes, we’ve really lucked out with some bargain basement picks like Ryan Howard, so, like the major league team, we’ll continue to go the bargain basement route and see if we get lucky and find someone good, but, whatever we do, we’re not going to pay an extra hundred thousand dollars or so on draft picks. Rather, we’ll limit our mistakes to high ticket, useless major league pitchers who we have to acquire because we do not have depth in our farm system and, no, we do not see the irony in our approaching things in this manner.”

  15. H Man, some strong comments here. Nicely done.

    I have trouble seeing this as anything but a decision on the part of the Phillies to make nice with Giles’ bud Bud rather than commit to putting the best team on the field down the road. I’m sure James is correct in reporting that all-star games and other carrots and sticks are deployed… but let’s face it, we aren’t getting the all-star game again in Selig’s tenure anyway unless they put his irreplaceable brain into an android body or something.

    The relatively smallness of the sums involved just makes it all even more infuriating. The likely differences for Sampson and Workman have to be less than what we still owe Freddy Garcia this season, and the whole point of signing these high-end guys is that maybe one of them eventually obviates the need for a Garcia type trade. This defines “penny-wise, pound-foolish,” and serves as a reminder that any successes under this collection of fools and crooks will be as flukish as ’93 was.

  16. if we didnt sign Barajas and Eaton i still think we would have signed the same amount of picks regardless.So i dont buy the arguement if it wasnt for Barajas we have more picks signed.IMO something has to be done before next year by the league.If you overslot you forfit a pick in the upcoming draft.[ie if you go 1 million overslot you lose a pick in the alotted slot next year].Baseball has to govern itself better or we’ll see another lockout, smaller market teams cannot compete with the big boys.In a way i would love the phills to sign all their picks,but i commend them on governing them selves to help whats in the best interest of all baseball.

  17. I would bet large, large sums of money that the differences for Sampson and Workman will be FAR LESS than what we would pay Garcia for the rest of the season (about $2.5 million of $10 million annual salary for 1/4 of the season). And you hit the nail on the head, when you think about the Phillies, one phrase comes to mind “penny-wise, pound-foolish.”

    Someone needs to explain the simple logic of the following to them. When you pay a few million dollars for a potentially great player like Andrew Miller, you save tens of millions of dollars on a mediocre to bad player like Adam Eaton (okay, no one thought he’d be this bad, but, at best he was a 4th starter; a truly average player). Doesn’t everyone see the foolishness in this course of action? It seems so blatantly obvious.

    Fortunately or unfortunately, I do not think this group will implode like the 1993 gang. This group is younger and more talented. Rather, the most likely scenario will be akin to a water torture, where the team has enough great players to contend, but lacks the depth to make the playoffs – so we’ll be doomed to more 86-88 win seasons without a postseason.

  18. jp, the problem is, a hard, regulated slot won’t happen. The Players Union would never consent to it.

    The slotting thing is simply a case of MLB wanting to limit the amount of money given to non-union players. They view it as taking away money that could be given to established veterans via free agency. Clearly agents don’t think like this, as they see the need for their elite clients to get paid what they deserve. Major League Baseball reduced every slot down the board by 10% this year. It’s an arbitrary reduction, and why it was reduced doesn’t really even make sense, if there even is a real reason other than to drive up revenue for clubs that don’t spend over slot. The cost of living increases every year, it doesn’t decrease, so why are 2007 bonuses supposed to be lower than 2006 bonuses? Why not just say that in 2007, the 13th overall pick will get the same as the 13th overall pick in 2006? Instead, they want those players to get 10% less.

  19. so its probably in best interest to not have a draft or brace for another lockout.the top teams are basically monopolizing,they get the best free agents and now the best prospects since the bottom feeders cant afford prospects demands.

  20. I see no reason why the players wouldn’t want a hard, regulated slotting system. MLB wants fewer dollars going to non-union players. Why wouldn’t the union players want this too? When other sports have negotiated the slotting systems they have done so mindful of the fact that non-draft dollars eventually go to their members.

    I also think MLB is playing a dangerous game with reducing the slots 10% this year. If they do negotiate a system they would need to keep the current slots or even raise them a bit if they wanted to minimize potential legal complications.

    Regardless of a slotting system they need to allow the trading of picks or new draftees. The lack of trades is preventing weak teams from getting better if they can’t afford it. Let the Tigers trade 3 picks plus a prospect for the right to sign Porcello. It is not as if the current system is preventing these big contracts to the top players anyway.

  21. What will always differentiate the MLB Draft from the NFL and NBA draft is that the players have other realistic options after the draft takes place. I would be in favor of annual amateur talent pool/cap per organization (whether done by sliding scale based on draft slot I’m not sure).

  22. andyb, those are interesting points, but the problem is, the Players Union doesn’t like that major leaguers are indebted to their current teams for 6 years, which sometimes takes off a year or two (or more, in cases like Howard) of their prime for which they could be cashing in on. Agents are the ones who don’t want slotting, and agents are very influential to the Players Union, since those same agents that represent hotshot prospects also represent established major leaguers. For some prospects, the signing bonus is the only big payday you’ll ever get, and they want to maximize it.

    SQUIRE, that’s an interesting idea. I think an interesting way to do it would be to allow teams to spend x % of their opening day revenue on signing draft picks. You could weigh it either way, whichever would promote more money being spent on major leaguers. For a team like Pittsburgh who doesn’t spend at the major league level, do you give them MORE money to spend on the draft, or less? Would you reward a team that isn’t afraid to spend on free agents by allowing them to spend more on the draft? You could take that in either direction.

    I agree that something needs to be done, but I don’t see a realistic answer on the horizon. The main point is, if there is no rule, there’s no reason the Phillies shouldn’t sign the best talent they can.

  23. Its not smart to have a “slotted limit” by pick. When I heard it, it just sounded dumb. What’s even dumber is that it’s a “suggestion”. Football has something similar, but I think it only applies to the first round, is an actual rule, and not nearly as stupid.

    But what’s more stupid than this pseudo-rule is the Phils not getting these guys signed (which at this point seems to be the way its going).

  24. When you are the loosingest team in sports, there is always a reason. There are reasons the Yankees are the winningest team. No one says it’s just luck. Well, no one should think it’s just bad luck that makes a team have the worst record either. The Phillies got to this point the old fashioned way, they earned it.
    The Sultan on Sports

  25. There are a number of points which I would love to address in respons to some good comments by a number of people. First and foremost I would like to state that the Phillies will not sign Brandon Workman. There can be all kinds of discussions on what is his true value, but the facts are the the Phillies knew prior to drafting Workman that h would not forego his scholarship at Texas for less than 350 K. In fact I have been told the Phillies even called the family and were told this prior to spending there pick on him. With this knowlege they still felt like he was the best pick for them at this point in the draft.
    Here I believe they not only did the fans a disservice, but they also did a this kid a disservice also as another team may have been willing to pay him the 350 K with a later pick.
    By knowing what it would take to sign him prior to drafting him the Phillies, either assumed they could get the family to accept “slot” of 288 K or were willing to trade this years pick number 107 for a pick sure to be in the 120’s.
    These players earn a total of 5- 7 K per year as minor league players, unlike players in other sports who do not deal with a minor league system. Many need the bonuses to live the 4-5 years while they are in the minors, so they can workout rather than get an off season job.
    the commisioners office recommendations are just that, any attempt to force teams to pay a specific amount would be a violation of the Sherman Anti-trust act and leave the teams open to charges of collusion and price fixing.
    In addition, the other sports seem to have no problem paying seniors the entire amount of money allocated for that particular pick in the draft. Baseball on the other hand dos not pay slot to 90% of the college seniors. In other words, as in the signing of Tyler Mach to an amount far below slot, MLB only uses the 4 letter word slot when it is to the teams benefit.

  26. Sorry unknowntx but there are some things that I disagree with in your post and some things that are simply untrue…

    MLB is exempt from the Sherman Anti-Trust Act (and all other anti-trust acts) according to federal law… Even if they weren’t, a slotting system would not be a violation of trust law because it would be collectively bargained (see the NBA).

    Secondly, the kid did not get a raw deal simply because he names a price and if a team isn’t willing to meet it they should let him go to another franchise who is. Once a selection is made, each player needs to make the decision whether to sign or not according to their circumstances. In this instance, the Phils drafted him so he deals with them. They drafted him before any other team. David Price probably could get more money from the Yankees, but they aren’t going to let him go simply because he can get more money from another team. Now that he is dealing with the Phils, he has to decide whether to lower his demands or to go to Texas. Fair enough if he decides that the scholarship that he uses as leverage is the optimum way for him to go. That does not make anything unfair, that makes the negotiations unsuccessful.

    Thirdly, the value of money is different to everybody. However, 250k or anything int hat range is far more than even the worth of a college scholarship (which I’m sure would be included in any negotiated bonus anyway). while he may be paid poorly during time in the minors, 250kish is more than enough money to live on comfortably (and if invested well, to sustain him for awhile) and if he is so confident that he can raise his value at the college level, then there is no reason that he couldn’t rise quickly in the minors and reach the big money of the MLB. In college, he will receive a scholarship and no other financial help of any kind. The degree has the same meaning whether he gets the scholarship from UT or the Phils.

    Fourthly, the amount that the Phils spend on other draft picks such as Mach and Chapman have no bearing on the Workman negotiations for Workman- only for us fans who are pissed that they don’t spend enough. If the Phils offer what he’s worth and he turns them down, then the team will have done its job while Workman will have made a poor decision- they shouldn’t have to offer more simply because that is what Workman demands. If the Phils don’t offer what he’s worth and Workman turns him down, then we have every right to be upset that management didn’t spend up to the worth of their draftees or anywhere even remotely close to the big-market team that we actually are. Still, however, no bearing on Workman- he has his leverage of UT and he can choose to accept it.

  27. 1) Hurray on Sampson.
    2) I’ve been trying to figure out why I’m so angry about Workman. It comes down to this: if we knew he wasn’t going to sign for an amount we were willing to pay, why did we waste that pick on him. Even if we get someone else (at a slightly lower position) next year, that’s one more year of our systme being that much more mediocre. The pros should know better. If we’re not going to go the “smart” route of the Tigers and Angels, then let’s at least draft the people we’re willing to sign. Otherwise we’re losing time in rebuilding a system that needs help.

  28. And another thing. jp, it looks like many teams are planning on SERIOUSLY breaking slot for their early picks – first round in particular. So it’s not like it’s a few renegades messing up the system. It’s more like people know the system’s not working, which makes those who follow it seem a little “pound-foolish.”

  29. If the Phillies thought enough of Workman to make him a 3rd round pick, then he definitely is worth $350K. The draft has been a more cost effective way to get major league talent than FA signings. Major league salaries continue to climb. It was very arbitrary and totally lacking any economic or common sense foundation for Selig to set a persoanal dicta that bonuses will be 10% less this year than last year. With baseball inflation picking up again ($25 mill for Eaton, anyone?) it would have made a lot more sense for the commish to increase the slot $ by 5 or 10% over last year and lean harder on teams to stay within slots. Progressive organizations doubtless view the shrinking of the slots as a bad joke. Last year’s slot $ for Workman’s slot was $320K (the guy picked there actually signed for $850K, but was an outlier as was the guy signed two picks later for $400K but that is the nature of the draft in the real world). Add 9% to last year’s slot and you get the $350K Workman was asking for. Not unreasonable for the slot. Reasonable kid and advisor. Unreasonable commish.

  30. Andy,the system is not working because teams are busting slot.{phillies included}The slot recommendations are their so all teams can have an equal playing field.The teams that are seriously breaking slot are basically hurting the smaller market teams.Some teams just dont have the revenue to compete with the Tigers,NY teams,Boston and some others.I think the ire comes from other execs other than selig.Me personally if i was a lower revenue team i wouldnt make any deals with the likes of detroit.

  31. Johnson is a toolsy outfielder who unfortunately has had several knee surgeries (I think one on each ACL). Fell in the draft because of the injury concerns. He is a Mormon, so I suppose a 2-year mission is a possibility as well. Not sure if that cuts into the rule 5 eligibility time.

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