The 2020 MLB Draft has already been shortened from 40 rounds to five as the league looks to save money at every turn while also starving Minor League Baseball prior to cutting 42 of its affiliates. The massive reduction in draft picks makes each selection that much more valuable, though R.J. Anderson of CBS Sports reported that one team with a top-10 pick might intentionally punt it away.
Though Anderson did not name the team in question, overwhelming speculation is that the Angels have at least considered the option of wasting their No. 10 pick on a player they don’t intend to sign. Cubs Insider subsequently confirmed with a source that the Angels are the team in question, though Taylor Blake Ward of Locked on Angels was told by a team exec that the rumors are “totally bogus.”
#Angels executive told me rumors of them punting on their first-round pick are "totally bogus"
does not mean that other team inside Top-10 picks isn't contemplating punting on their pick tomorrow, but Angels are not that team
— Taylor Blake Ward (@TaylorBlakeWard) June 9, 2020
Exactly how bogus the rumors and reports are is up for debate, but the Angels sure do make a lot of sense as a serious candidate for such a ploy. Not only did they inexplicably furlough most of their scouting department last month, but they don’t have a second-round pick. Eric Longenhagen of FanGraphs hinted at the potential for shenanigans in his mock draft at the end of May, so the idea of the Angels looking to save money isn’t exactly novel.
On the surface, there might be some logic to a team taking this tack when both draft and season (fingers crossed) are operating at drastically reduced capacity. If a team is unable to sign its pick, it is awarded that same pick in the following draft, so perhaps the lack of scouting and uncertainty regarding true impact talent beyond the first few players on the board creates too much unease.
There’s also the idea of saving money by avoiding the big signing bonus for a first-round pick, something owners have been very transparent about throughout this whole process. After seeing how many teams are trying to save a few bucks by furloughing employees, cutting contributions to retirement plans, and asking people to accept pay cuts or work fewer hours, it’s easy to believe they might get thrifty in the draft as well.
However, a slightly deeper dive into the details of the situation seems to blow up this particular strategy. The rules of this year’s draft limit picks to just $100,000 of their bonus in 2020, with the remainder spread out in equal payments the next two years. There go any immediate savings. What’s more, such a blatantly intentional move might result in penalties beyond just the forfeiture of that would-be compensatory pick next year.
If the Angels were in fact bandying this idea about, denying it is the only smart thing they’ve done so far. Even if they’re still thinking about it, or if another team is doing the same, you can bet agents and the MLB Players Association are going to be scrutinizing the process more thoroughly than before. While players aren’t eligible for the union upon being drafted, this is something that affects the labor force as a whole at a time when acrimony defines the relationship with owners.
If nothing else, it’s an interesting topic that bears watching as the draft unfolds over the next two days.