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Tuesday, May 25, 2010

The Loser's Curse: Kevin Goldstein On Bryce Harper's Key Role In A Changing Draft

The scuttlebutt yesterday about a possible DL trip for Brandon Wood reminds me that the first-round pick was a consequence of their winning so very much in 2002. (The Angels did even better in 2004 with Jered Weaver.) Wood signed for $1.3M, and Weaver for $4M, the latter tying for that year's largest bonus.

Those bonuses are something Weaver's agent, Scott Boras, has connived to extend every single year. Kevin Goldstein reports that Bryce Harper, a prep catcher widely viewed as the best amateur talent in the game now, has escaped high school by getting a GED. He now toils for the College of Southern Nevada, a junior college.

Thanks to various loopholes, he has leverage against the draft in multiple dimensions:

Leverage traditionally comes from younger players, as high school players who find teams that don't meet their demands opt for the college game and an opportunity to maintain or improve their sdraft tock down the road. However, for Harper, by leaving high school two years early, getting his GED, and enrolling in a junior college that has no effect on his eligibility, he has created more leverage than any top pick in draft history, as he can return to his junior college next season and be just 18 when the 2011 draft begins—as old as the high school draftees.
Boras thinks the $30M deal the Reds signed with Aroldis Chapman is only the beginning, and that the cash register will ring even louder for Harper, or at least, louder than the $15.1M package the Nationals gave Stephen Strasburg. Now of course, there are peculiarities to his situation that makes this difficult to sustain; how much better can he get before the draft? And then there's the risk he might regress if he does pull out and go to a 4-year college.
Then there is the CBA that ends after the 2010 season. Consistently treated as the redheaded stepchild in previous talks, insiders on both sides of the table believe that the upcoming negotiations will be the one where the draft is finally addressed in a very real manner, including the possibility of a hard slotting system that would all but end the days of the over-slot signing bonus. Thus, the 2011 version of draft candidate Bryce Harper would almost be forced to sign, assuming that his leverage would be reduced dramatically the following year.
Given how badly the Angels are playing this year, I have to think they're going to have a protected draft slot in 2011 (i.e. top half). This could be a good thing if the draft slotting system he suggests is imposed; but then you wonder what the Yankees and Red Sox would have to say about it.



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