One less inefficiency to exploit

When the Tigers pulled off the Cabrera/Willis trade, Cameron Maybin and Andrew Miller were the two key pieces. They had something in common – they slipped to the Tigers due to signability issues. The same thing happened in 2007 with Rick Porcello and the Tigers hungrily snapped him up, and like with the aforementioned players, were willing to go above slot to sign him. When the Tigers made the trade it was assumed that they would be able to replenish quickly due to Mike Ilitich’s willingness to spend for premium talent in the draft – but it appears that there will be less talent slips.

Peter Gammons notes that the small market teams have realized that the draft is the best chance to be on a level (or at least level-ish) playing field with the big spending teams. They can’t get the same free agents, but they can get the same quality of entry player. Gammons lists the top 10 teams in terms of signing bonuses to top 10 picks:

Royals, Rays, Red Sox, Giants, Pirates, Brewers, Rangers, Twins, Orioles and Astros

Many of these teams are the ones that were passing on the Maybins, and Millers, and Porcellos in past years.

This was a concern I had when the deal was initially made. That the league would see the Tigers were able to make the trade by spending big on the draft, and big on the draft is much more affordable than big on the free agent market.

As for the Tigers, they ranked in the bottom 7 in draft bonuses (or is it bonii?) in 2008. At the time I wondered if it was a matter of them saving money for international signings, which haven’t been formally announced by the team to the best of my knowledge but TigsTown notes that there had been 7 as of August 1st. I have no idea how much they spent, or how it compares to past years. It’s possible that the organization felt this wasn’t the draft to invest in, and that the players didn’t warrant the slot busting bonuses. Or because so much depth had been traded away, they wanted to avoid the risky picks for a year to get a quick infusion. Or the worst case scenario, the spending at the big league level may have taken a chunk out of David Chadd’s budget.

Regardless, and I don’t say this to diminish the work that Chadd and his staff do, the Tigers probably can’t rely on other teams passing on talent at the same rate they did in 2005 through 2007. Then again, the Tigers performance this year is dictating that they’ll have a chance at a pretty good player as they move down the standings and up the draft order.


  1. Nick

    August 21, 2008 at 10:06 am

    Who were the top teams, as far as signing bonuses, in previous years? Even with guys slipping I would still expect it to be skewed towards the teams picking early in the draft because they aren’t really getting that much of a discount on their early picks (the top pick still gets alot of money, even if the Tigers also pay alot of money to someone with the 20th pick) and that gap should rise with each round beyond the 1st. Maybin, Miller and Porcello were all first round picks but first round signing bonuses are only a portion of this equation.

  2. Andrew C.

    August 21, 2008 at 11:09 am


  3. Subrata Sircar

    August 21, 2008 at 9:58 pm

    It might be nice to evaluate team drafts on money-over-slot; that should be a better indicator of signing guys who are slipping due to financial constraints. For example, if the Tigers signed a guy at #20 and paid him more money than guys picked after him, that’s not the Tigers failing to sign a guy because of budget.

    We can also look at the Tigers draft relative to some preseason draft rankings – did they in fact take the best available guys, as ranked by a consensus of those rankings? or did they pass on a guy due to injury/financial constraints?

    Regardless of that, the Royals in particular stepped up in a big way this draft, which supports the overall point. Hopefully they picked the right players to reward with their largesse.

  4. Matt in Toledo

    August 22, 2008 at 8:18 am

    I looked at money-over-slot last year to see where the Tigers ranked in what I believed was the better indicator of a team’s willingness to spend. It does shuffle up the order because some teams don’t spend much after the top pick.

    It might not really speak to Billfer’s point too much, though, which was getting elite talent like Miller and Porcello as a later pick may not be possible anymore. (I know Miller was the sixth pick, but nobody thought he should’ve slipped that far.) Regardless of what teams are doing in the later rounds, if they’re not from Houston, they seem to be committing to taking the top talent and taking their medicine when it comes to the boni.

    I think the idea of spending over slot in the later rounds does, however, speak to the proper approach in response to this fact. Teams need to do due diligence to find guys who will waver on their desire to go to college and guys whose injury concerns aren’t all that concerning. Then they need to pony up and get those guys in the fold.

  5. Chris in Dallas

    August 22, 2008 at 10:53 am

    I think a trend in smaller market teams going over slot and getting the talent that they want/need is good for the game in general. It really has to suck to be a Royals or Pirates fan for instance. Much like we felt as Tigers fans for the better part of two decades. If a team doesn’t have the budget for big free agents or locking up their own stars to long term deals, replenishing through the draft is a cheap and quick way to keep the team competitive. Of course, screwing up just one draft can set you back a ways. Looking at you, Houston.