Major League Baseball will conduct the 2020 amateur draft this week, with the first round on Wednesday and the remaining four rounds on Thursday. Due to the spread of the novel coronavirus, this year's draft will be held virtually rather than in-person and alongside the College World Series in Omaha, Nebraska as originally planned. This year's edition will also run just five rounds instead of 40, as per an agreement between the league and the Players Association.
The Detroit Tigers will choose first for the second time in three years, and they are expected to select Arizona State University first baseman Spencer Torkelson. (CBS Sports recently ranked Torkelson as the second-best prospect in the class.) So far as draft-night intrigue goes, the real potential lies later in the top 10. That's because multiple front-office sources have confirmed to CBS Sports that one team with a top-10 pick is at least considering punting this year's draft.
What that would entail is, among other things, taking a player in the first round whom the team does not intend to sign. Rather, the team would offer the minimum amount required to be awarded a compensatory pick in next year's draft (40 percent of the slot value). In return, the team would pick in the same spot, plus one, in 2021. For example: the Houston Astros received the No. 2 selection in the 2015 draft after failing to sign Brady Aiken, the No. 1 pick in 2014. Teams can receive compensatory picks for selections made through round three.
The scarcity of truly unsignable players in this year's class means the team in question would likely draft underslot (read: cheaper) players in rounds two through five.
The difference between this draft and most is that a team that intentionally bypasses this year's class won't be saving much money. Draftees will receive just $100,000 of their signing bonus this year. The rest will be paid over the ensuing two years. Nonetheless, other teams throughout the first round have been identified to CBS Sports as seeking underslot agreements.
It's worth noting that those rumblings come at a time when MLB and the Players Association are struggling to reach an agreement on a modified season. The financial component has been identified as the main sticking point, with the owners wanting the players to take a greater pay cut than they already have, as part of an agreement earlier in the pandemic.
The past month has also seen the Oakland Athletics announce they would no longer pay a weekly stipend to their minor-league players. The A's have since changed course after facing public backlash. The Los Angeles Angels, however, have not reversed their decision to furlough their scouting staff in May. They will do the same with their crosscheckers after the draft. Both teams are expected to face draft-related consequences as a result.