Dansby Swanson, Welcome to the Desert!

Well, the Arizona Diamondbacks avoided being laughed at, just barely, by accomplishing something they should have had no problem doing.

Welcome Dansby Swanson, the #1 pick out of Vanderbilt to the club!

Fortunately, the Diamondbacks were able to get this kid signed, because had they not, it would have been quite embarrassing for them and their fans. Yeah, maybe the would have received compensation in next year’s draft, but this kid was awesome for an awesome college team in Vanderbilt. But, today’s fiasco and all its worry and anticipation revealed something about baseball that leaves a bad taste in my mouth. The very real possibility that the Diamondbacks may have not signed this kid over not more than $2 million.

With roughly $8.6 million left in bonus money to give, the Diamondbacks reportedly made a final offer of around $6.5 million a couple days ago. The word on the interwebs is that it went down to the wire in an attempt to get as much as possible. Don’t get me wrong, if I am a player who just got drafted, of course I am maxing out that first contract, but does this have to happen every year with a bunch of draftees?

Jun 24, 2015; Omaha, NE, USA; Vanderbilt Commodores shortstop Dansby Swanson (7) reacts after the game against the Virginia Cavaliers in game three of the College World Series Final at TD Ameritrade Park. Virginia defeated Vanderbilt 4-2 to win the College World Series. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Thorson-USA TODAY Sports

Major League Baseball has a problem on their hands. Unlike all three other major North American sports, MLB has a massive bonus structure in place for players who rarely help their teams for years after they get drafted. The NFL has the largest bonus structure for draftees, but that is because those players have no minor leagues to toil in. They are expected to perform immediately. The NBA is similar, but with less bonus money out of the gate. The NHL is similar to baseball, with minor leagues and team control for quite a few years; however, they have structured entry level contracts.

The record for an MLB draftee bonus is $8 million by first overall pick Gerritt Cole of the Pittsburgh Pirates in 2011. Since then, MLB instituted a slot bonus structure. Sure, you can pay more than the slot rate is, but then you have to save money elsewhere. The problem here is that being a top of the draft player hardly makes you worth they millions of dollars you are going to get.

In fact, there have been rumblings from lower drafted players over the last few years that they aren’t keen to see their peers make millions because they were newsworthy in high school or college while they toyed around as Little Sister of the Poor Community College in some small town in middle Vermont. On the other hand, these players won’t be a part of the MLBPA until the become major leaguers, so the MLBPA stays generally quiet about their opinion.

Who doesn’t stay quiet though? The Super Agents, like Scott Boras, who negotiate the contracts while acting as “advisors,” not “agents” so as to save the possibility for the players to go to college if they don’t sign. Last year’s number 1 pick Brady Aiken hired an “advisor” to negotiate his contract with the Astros. The only reason he didn’t end up playing college ball was because his “advisor” made public comments about the negotiations. Same thing happened with James Paxton a few years back.

If you ask me, this whole process stinks. If you hire someone to negotiate a contract for you, they are an agent, whether you call them one or not. the NCAA pretends like it is an amateur league, but they sell out their amateurs for huge profits in marketing and sponsorships, of which these amateur players have no say over. I would say it sounds an awful lot like exploitation if you ask me.

Without getting into that part of the puzzle too deep, I’ll lay out my problem with all this. First, Major League Baseball has huge sums of money to throw around wherever they want. If a team decides it only wants to pay a draftee $6 million and he asks for $7 million, every team in baseball “can” make that increase from a financial stance; however, they may not be able to if they used up too much of their arbitrarily allotted draft slot money.

What benefit does the league get in not having standard entry level contracts and just ceasing this practice that even creates the problem of teams not signing their picks? I thought the league was all about fairness (revenue sharing) and parity (the Yankees and Dodgers have payrolls larger than half of the world’s countries and haven’t won a championship in quite some time). If that were the case, the league wouldn’t have a system in place that allows cheap owners to not sign kids that they drafted with the assumption of helping them win in the future.

I realized two things while writing this: I ranted hard today and this is a poor system.

But today, we got to see a good player with a bunch of talent and potential become a Diamondback. Turmoil and ridiculousness aside, they got their man and he should be the man pretty soon (assuming he doesn’t get traded in a salary dump next June).