Monday, January 11, 2010

Aroldis Chapman and the draft

Aroldis Chapman (left), a 21-year-old lefty who defected from Cuba last year with a mid-90s fastball, uncertain command and supposed "makeup" issues, signed today with Cincinnati.

The Twins were among the 15 organizations who attended a bullpen session last month, but if they were a factor in the negotiations, it was quietly. Which is possible; the Reds' successful pursuit wasn't trumpeted on the Internet.

There are a lot of aspects to this signing that I could get into, but the one I'm going to is this:

Stephen Strasburg, the top pick in last summer's draft, wound up signing for $15 million with Washington. Chapman's deal is for a total of $30.25 million, although Cincy will be paying some of that four years after the contract itself expires.

The difference, of course, is that Strasburg was subject to the draft, Chapman was not.

The draft now covers the United States, its territories, and Canada. Players from the rest of the world are not covered.

Bud Selig wants a worldwide draft, but it figures to be a self-defeating notion.

Teams today get a lot of talent out of the Dominican Republic — because they're provided the athletic infrastructure, in the form of academies, to develop that talent. Teams aren't going to spend money to develop players for somebody else to draft. That's what happened in Puerto Rico: Once the island was covered by the draft, the talent dried up.

The link above wrestles with the difficult mechanics of a worldwide draft, but as far as I'm concerned that's secondary to the damage to the talent pool it would bring.

The real question ought to be: Should there be an amateur draft at all?

The argument for it is that without one, the rich organizations would sign all the young talent. But in the decades since the draft began (1965), something major happened: Free agency.

The Yankees and Red Sox are spending their money chasing veterans. Neither appears to have been a serious suitor for Chapman. The team that ponied up for this unproven talent was a small market club.

From La Velle Neal's blog today:
I also agree with a fellow scribe’s tweet that Scott Boras must be seething that Chapman can get $30 million as a free agent while Stephen Strasburg could get only $15 million because he was drafted. But this also is another example of why the draft needs to survive.

I don't know how it shows that at all. It might if the Yankees had blown everybody out of the water. But the biggest-dollar signings out of the Dominican the last couple of years have come from the Twins (Miguel Sano) and the Athletics (Michel Inoa).

Wipe out the draft, and what will happen? Players like Strasburg probably would get bigger contracts — I doubt any pro scout thinks Chapman is twice as valuable a property as Strasburg — but many others might find their clout diminish. It's difficult for a bad team to walk away from a first-round pick making an exorbitant demand; there's a commitment made to that player by the very act of selecting him.

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