Blog Entry

3 to watch: The Deadline Day edition

Posted on: August 15, 2010 8:56 pm
If you care even a little bit about the baseball draft, then you'll hear the words "above slot" plenty in the hours leading up to Monday night's midnight signing deadline. As in, "Team A beat the deadline by agreeing to sign their first-round draft pick by going above slot on the bonus."

What it means is fairly simple: While baseball doesn't have an official slotting system for draft-pick bonuses, it has in recent years tried to institute an unofficial system. Since it's unofficial, the smart teams (or smart owners, anyway) have more or less ignored it, and thus benefitted by signing better players than they should have gotten, based on where they were drafting.

And here's why you should care:

Cliff Lee vs. David Price, Monday night at Tropicana Field, that's why. Two of the leading candidates for the American League Cy Young Award, two of the best teams in baseball, and two teams who wouldn't have those pitchers if they hadn't gone "above slot."

The Rays drafted Price first overall in 2007. Baseball had designated a $3.6 million bonus for that slot, according to research by Baseball America . To sign Price, the Rays had to give him a six-year major-league contract, including a $5.6 million bonus.

And Lee? The Rangers were able to trade for him only because they could offer Justin Smoak to the Mariners. The Rangers paid Smoak a $3.5 million bonus in 2008, well above the $1.99 slot figure recommended by baseball (again, according to Baseball America ).

It's the same thing the Tigers did to acquire Miguel Cabrera, who might have been the American League's Most Valuable Player this year if his team hadn't fallen apart around him. The Tigers got Cabrera only because they went above slot to sign Andrew Miller and Cameron Maybin, who became the two key pieces in the trade with the Marlins.

According to Baseball America , of the 15 first-round signings that had been announced by early Sunday evening, only three were above slot (and none of the three were far above slot). But the strong assumption is that most of the remaining 17 first-rounders will sign by the deadline, and that all that do sign at the last minute will get more than what baseball recommends.

The most interesting case, of course, involves top pick Bryce Harper, whose contract with the Nationals -- if he agrees to one -- will be for much more than the $4 million slot recommendation.

You don't need to understand all the details to know that you want your favorite team to buck the system. A partial list of above-slot signings from the last three years includes not just Price and Smoak, but also all these guys whose names you might recognize (thanks to Baseball America for help with the research):

Stephen Strasburg, Jason Heyward, Mike Stanton, Buster Posey, Mike Leake, Mike Minor, Rick Porcello, Matt Wieters, Jake Arrieta, Pedro Alvarez, Brian Matusz, Gordon Beckham and Madison Bumgarner, among others. Go back a few more years, and you can add in Mark Teixeira and Jon Lester, among others.

On to 3 to watch:

1. Lee vs. Price could be a Game 1 playoff matchup, and not just the matchup in Rangers at Rays, Monday night (7:10 ET) at Tropicana Field , in the first of a three-game series. The Rangers just got done playing the other two top teams in the American League East, splitting two games with the Yankees and winning two of the three from the Red Sox. We've long contended that the Yankees, Rays and Red Sox are the three best teams in the league, and maybe in all of baseball. The Rangers are in the process of proving they belong in that group, too.

2. Johnny Damon plays at Yankee Stadium this week for the first time since the World Series, and Austin Jackson plays there for the first time ever. If the Yankees didn't have baseball's best record (and if the Tigers hadn't slipped badly out of the race in the American League Central), the homecoming would bring on massive second-guessing of the Yankees' offseason strategy. Curtis Granderson, who was traded for Jackson and basically brought in to take over for Damon, is having a poor season (his OPS ranks 28th among the 33 major-league outfielders with 350 or more plate appearances). While Damon, Jackson and Granderson will be the week's focal point, the series also includes an interesting pitching matchup of Justin Verlander vs. CC Sabathia, in Tigers at Yankees, Tuesday night (7:05 ET) at Yankee Stadium .

3. Every visiting team hated the Metrodome, but the White Sox may have hated it more than anyone else. They definitely wouldn't have liked the idea of going there this week, down three games to the Twins in the AL Central race. But are they any better now that the Metrodome is gone, heading into a series that includes White Sox at Twins, Thursday night (8:10 ET) at Target Field ? Perhaps not. The Sox are 2-4 at Target Field, and Thursday starter Mark Buehrle lost his only start there (despite giving up just three runs in an eight-inning complete game). Buehrle is 0-5 in six starts in Minnesota since the start of the 2008 season.

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Since: Feb 1, 2009
Posted on: August 18, 2010 1:36 pm

3 to watch: The Deadline Day edition

Now it is 2 down...WOW who'd a thunk it.
First though...Arias lost the game for Lee!! Lot's of injured Rangers right now...NOT excusing it up though. They should be able to win even though they have injuries!! Once again after the all-star break the Rangers start looking suspect!!! I am Still a die-hard Ranger  fan....The Angels have not been able to capitalize so I still like the Rangers to win the division and finally make it past the first round...After that WHO KNOWS???

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