New York — Major League Baseball will cut its amateur draft from 40 rounds to five this year, a move that figures to save teams about $30 million.
Clubs gained the ability to reduce the draft as part of their March 26 agreement with the players’ association and MLB plans to finalize a decision next week to go with the minimum, a person familiar with the decision told the Associated Press. The person spoke Friday on condition of anonymity because no decision was announced.
There will be just 160 players drafted, and the combined value of their signing bonus pools is $235,906,800. The amount of signing bonus pool money eliminated is $29,578,100.
The Tigers have the first pick in each round of the draft, so this decision could potentially impact them negatively more than any other team.
As part of the agreement with the union, players passed over in the draft are limited to signing bonuses of $20,000 or less. That might cause more high school players to elect to go to college. And because of the NCAA’s limit of 11.7 baseball scholarships, the change may cause more prospects to attend junior college.
All but six of last year’s six-round picks signed for $200,000 or more. Chicago Cubs catcher/first baseman Ethan Hearn had the highest bonus of the round at $950,000, deciding to sign rather than attend Mississippi State.
San Francisco signed right-hander John McDonald, selected 326th on the 11th round, for $797,500, and Arizona gave left-hander Avery Short, picked 362nd on the 12th round, $922,500.
Among 1,082 players who were in a big-league game last year after coming through the draft, 180 were first-round picks and 589 were selected during the first five rounds, according to the commissioner’s office. There were 204 from rounds six to 10, 102 from rounds 11-15 and 63 from rounds 16-20. Just 74 were from rounds 21-30 and only 50 from rounds 31-50.
Once unlimited, the draft was cut to 50 rounds in 1998 and to 40 rounds in 2012.
Signing bonus pools started in 2012 and limit the amount of money teams can spend. Each slot in the first 10 rounds is a signed a value – the range last year was $8,415,300 down to $142,200 – and each team’s values are added to a form a pool. Signing bonuses in the first 10 rounds count against the pool along with the amounts above $125,000 of players selected after the 10th round or who were bypassed in the draft and then signed.
A team that exceeds it pool is taxed, and a club more than 5% above loses a first-round draft pick the next year – a threshold never reached.
Teams drafted 1,217 players over 40 rounds last year and have signed 960 at a total bonus cost of $316,560,984. In addition, 159 players passed over in the draft signed for $1,514,700.