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Friday, August 22, 2014

Brisbee: Rusney Castillo reminds us how screwed amateur players can be

The Cuban guys do almost always have better names. “Rusney” is pretty good, although the “Castillo” is uninspiring. Stuff like “Erisbel Arruebarrena” and “Odrisamer Despaigne” is just incredible.

[Rusney] Castillo got just over nine times the largest bonus ever handed out in the draft, the $8 million Gerrit Cole received from the Pirates. That’s partially because the Red Sox are expecting Castillo to help the 2015 team, which makes this something of an apples/oranges comparison, but he’s getting the money mostly because the Red Sox could give it to him…

Just look at the pennywhistles and moon pies that Rusney Castillo can buy now, even though no one knows exactly how he compares to the 90 best outfielders around the league. The headline for this could just as easily be “Scott Boras makes an excellent point about the draft” or “Scott Boras, unlikely freedom fighter” or “Agreeing with Scott Boras and then taking a long, long shower,” because Boras mentions this same point every June. And Boras was the guy who found loopholes to make Travis Lee and Matt White free agents in 1996, eventually getting them contracts that, if they were draft bonuses, would still be the two largest draft bonuses in history today.

Repeat: Matt White and Travis Lee were paid more as free agents almost 20 years ago than any player in the draft has received as a bonus since.

This isn’t a call to action. This isn’t a post with suggestions on how to attack the CBA. This isn’t an editorial slamming MLB and the MLBPA for conspiring to allow this. It’s just a note directing your attention to the Red Sox, who paid an awful lot of money for a player who might not be good at all, and being positively giddy about their ability to do so. If Castillo is the next [Yasiel] Puig, we’ll spend the next decade saying, “What a bargain! What a bargain!”, even though he was paid exponentially more for his first deal than almost every other unknown-yet-fascinating talent is.

Reaching into your pocket for your wallet is much easier. But don’t forget that it’s a lot more expensive than paying the players who fall into a team’s lap every June. That’s not going to change, even as we have Castillo as proof that it probably should.

The District Attorney Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:05 PM | 31 comment(s) Login to Bookmark
  Tags: draft, international, rusney castillo

Reader Comments and Retorts

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   1. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:23 PM (#4777330)
Foreign players need to made part of the amateur draft. No loopholes.
   2. McCoy Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:29 PM (#4777338)
How about amateur players shouldn't have a cap on their bonus and they can sign where they want?
   3. Cargo Cultist Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:34 PM (#4777340)
#2 No way.
   4. You Know Nothing JT Snow (YR) Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4777349)
How about amateur players shouldn't have a cap on their bonus and they can sign where they want?


Communism! Or something.
   5. AROM Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:47 PM (#4777350)
How about amateur players shouldn't have a cap on their bonus and they can sign where they want?


Sure would make life easier for the Yankees. Now they can sign top talent, but for the most part only when their best years are already past.
   6. Moeball Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:55 PM (#4777356)
Stuff like “Erisbel Arruebarrena” and “Odrisamer Despaigne” is just incredible.


I was at the game where Despaigne took a no-hitter into the 8th. He was starting to run out of gas in the 7th and was in a jam, mainly because he couldn't find the strike zone and was walking batters. All of a sudden he steps off the mound, puts the ball in his glove, carefully sets the glove on the ground and proceeds to lower his zipper and unbuckle his pants. I thought we were re-visiting Steve Lyons! But O.D. just readjusted his shirt, tucked it back in and re-buckled and zipped. Apparently that did the trick; he immediately threw a strike and was able to get out of the inning.
   7. Ron J2 Posted: August 22, 2014 at 03:58 PM (#4777361)
#5 That seems unclear at best to me. The Yankees had a lot of advantages in the pre-draft days but they weren't close to locking up all of the elite young talent.

Some of that has to be down to the baby bonus rules, and rules of that nature are unlikely to return.

   8. kthejoker Posted: August 22, 2014 at 04:36 PM (#4777391)
I hope in the future we invent a way to completely simulate the multiverse so we can actually run hypotheticals. I would love to have an actual world where YR's free-market views on baseball were enacted, and to simulate it 100 years into the future to see if baseball thrives or shrivels up and dies.

   9. AROM Posted: August 22, 2014 at 04:53 PM (#4777406)
#5 That seems unclear at best to me. The Yankees had a lot of advantages in the pre-draft days but they weren't close to locking up all of the elite young talent.


They didn't need all the young talent. Just more of it than the other teams. The Yankees got the core 5 after a few years where they stunk. That allowed them to draft Jeter near the top, an opportunity they haven't had in over 20 years. The others were more skill/luck than draft position - Rivera, Pettitte, Posada, Bernie. Either late round picks or amateur free agents.

Since then they've brought in new "cores" - CC, Tex, and AJ in 2009, or McCann/Ellsbury/Beltran/Tanaka last year - but these guys have a lot more wear on them.

My guess is a pure free market will give the Yankees a good *young* core every 5 years or so, instead of every couple of decades.
   10. madvillain Posted: August 22, 2014 at 04:54 PM (#4777407)
@8 -- according to Science we are getting closer and closer to a quantum computer. We are also getting very close to machine neuro networks capable of self replication and adaption.

So yea, maybe in 2030 we can see how YR's views would pan out.
   11. catomi01 Posted: August 22, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4777409)
I hope in the future we invent a way to completely simulate the multiverse so we can actually run hypotheticals. I would love to have an actual world where YR's free-market views on baseball were enacted, and to simulate it 100 years into the future to see if baseball thrives or shrivels up and dies.


ootp seems to use up enough resources on my shitty laptop that I think it might actually be simulating the entirety of the multiverse.
   12. AROM Posted: August 22, 2014 at 04:56 PM (#4777410)
Instead of going to a 30+ year old free agent to replace Jeter at short, Yankees in a free market world would have thought ahead and spent big on Carlos Correa, Francisco Lindor, or one of the Cubs guys to be ready to replace Jeter. In other words, have the Mantle ready for when the DiMaggio is finished.
   13. Fancy Pants Handles lap changes with class Posted: August 22, 2014 at 05:08 PM (#4777420)
Foreign players need to made part of the amateur draft. No loopholes.

Yes, US draftees who are FA's by the age of 27, and have made tens of millions by that age are worse off than the foreigner who can come in at 27 without having made a dime!

Draftees are getting screwed, no doubt. But a system that made guys in their late 20's and 30's draft eligible, and effectively remove any possibility of a large FA contract would be a much, much bigger screw job.
   14. Cabbage Posted: August 22, 2014 at 06:03 PM (#4777449)
This isn’t an editorial slamming MLB and the MLBPA for conspiring to allow this.


For all the handwringing that went down during the last CBA negotiation about owners vs. players, I was surprised there wasn't more talk about this. I think we'll have a good deal of labor peace for the foreseeable future because the current system benefits both owners and players by screwing over the amateurs.
   15. Zach Posted: August 22, 2014 at 06:45 PM (#4777485)
Uh huh. Because Latin American prospects are famous for getting the big bucks.

Castillo is a 27 year old free agent who can contribute immediately. He's getting paid like a free agent who can contribute immediately.

18 year olds don't get astronomical contracts, because very few 18 year olds project to play in the major leagues next year.

An 18 year old ballplayer isn't screwed because of the draft. He's screwed because he's got 3 or 4 years of hard work before his services generate any money for anybody.
   16. The Yankee Clapper Posted: August 22, 2014 at 06:53 PM (#4777491)
Foreign players need to made part of the amateur draft. No loopholes.

The amateur draft has always been primarily about reducing the cost of labor, not competitive balance. Seems rather strange that when the billionaire MLB owners have to pay a few amateur players based on their fair market value, the response of some is that those guys need to be screwed, too.
   17. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2014 at 07:02 PM (#4777494)
An 18 year old ballplayer isn't screwed because of the draft. He's screwed because he's got 3 or 4 years of hard work before his services generate any money for anybody.

No, as the Lee and White examples in the excerpt demonstrate, draftees are screwed because they would earn a lot more if they could openly negotiate. As guys like Mark Prior show, recent draftees are screwed by slotting -- Prior got $10.5 M back in 2001; Strasburg got $15 M in 20009; the Astros top offer to Aiken (#1 overall) was $6.5 M and the slot "max" is around $7.

There is very little doubt that draftees, especially the top ones, would sign for many more millions than they do if it was an open market for amateur talent. That value of course is still predicated on the team getting the first 6+ years of ML service cheaply -- i.e. the open market value for draftees is high primarily because the early career costs are constrained to be artificially low. So at present they're basically doubly screwed.
   18. Bug Selig Posted: August 22, 2014 at 07:05 PM (#4777496)
My guess is a pure free market will give the Yankees a good *young* core every 5 years or so, instead of every couple of decades.


I think there is still too much randomness in prospecting. Unless they are going to go back to the Branch Rickey model of 30 affiliates, that's a market you just can't corner.

Let's go back 10 years. If we go batshit and assume that the Yankees could sign the top 10 amateurs that year, they would now have... Justin Verlander and Homer Bailey. To get to 3, you'd have to accept Chris Nelson.

How about 15? - Josh Beckett, Barry Zito, and (if they held onto him, which is doubtful) Josh Hamilton.

Go 20 years back, same exercise - Todd Walker and a bunch of pitchers who got hurt.

The species "all the best amateur talent" kinda doesn't exist because we don't know who they are while they are amateurs.
   19. tfbg9 Posted: August 22, 2014 at 07:21 PM (#4777503)
Unless they're Weiters.
   20. Joe Kehoskie Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:13 PM (#4777527)
There is very little doubt that draftees, especially the top ones, would sign for many more millions than they do if it was an open market for amateur talent.

The draft depresses the value of the top dozen or so players and inflates the value of everyone else.

There aren't bidding wars for the 20th-best ML free agent or the 20th-best international free agent from the D.R., Venezuela, etc. There wouldn't be bidding wars for the 20th-best or 100th-best or 400th-best draft pick, either.
   21. Walt Davis Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:19 PM (#4777530)
#18 ... mostly agreed but you would also have to assume that these super-Yanks would be as lucky with what is currently 2nd/3rd+ round talent as any other team. That is, they'd have still had Cano, lucked into Gardner, etc.

I'm not sure the "replenish young core" is the approach they'd take, but I'd guess that the #1 pick would end up a Yankee (or occasionally Red Sox or other high payroll team) every year and would likely never fall to the Rays/Astros/etc. The #1 picks from 2005-11 were J Upton, Hochevar (idiot Royals, should have been Longoria), David Price, Tim Beckham (I recall this was considered a good pick), Strasburg, Harper, Cole. That's a mighty nice young core even if you are stuck with Hochevar and Upton is still only 26.

Anyway, in the alternate universe it really depends on how the rest of the labor market is structured. What the super-Yanks would probably optimally like to do is be able to buy all the best 24-27 year-old talent and let others gamble on amateur talent and old FAs.

Anyway, we certainly had a long experiment of what the world looks like when amateur talent is available in an open market and the reserve clause is in effect ... and in that experiment, the Yanks won the AL pennant 30 times in 44 years (1921-1964). And we saw what a young core and a high payroll can result in with 17 playoffs, 13 AL East champs and 7 AL pennants in 20 seasons 1995-2014.

And it's more coincidence and bad ownership but the period from the start of the draft until the start of FA -- the Yanks stunk. That 76 team was built mainly through trades not the draft/amateur FA (Munson and Guidry being major exceptions ... White was signed pre-draft-era).
   22. BDC Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:22 PM (#4777532)
The amateur draft has always been primarily about reducing the cost of labor, not competitive balance.

And yet competitive balance was a byproduct. Weird coincidence or not, the years between the institution of the draft and the start of free agency saw champions in Baltimore, Oakland, Pittsburgh, Cincinnati - and then it was right back to Yankees/Dodgers World Series again.

OK, a bit of a coincidence. One huge change has been that the Yankees, Dodgers, and Cardinals no longer have vast farm systems like those that stashed talent away in the mid-20th century. I can't imagine those coming back.
   23. BDC Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:23 PM (#4777533)
I'm just going to quit Primer & send Walt a lifetime supply of Cokes.
   24. PreservedFish Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:28 PM (#4777535)
Sure would make life easier for the Yankees. Now they can sign top talent, but for the most part only when their best years are already past.


I wonder to what extent teams would just shift money from player payroll into amateur bonuses. The Yankees might go nuts but most teams probably spend X per year and that X wouldn't necessarily change. It would just redistribute money away from veterans and towards the kiddos.
   25. PreservedFish Posted: August 22, 2014 at 09:47 PM (#4777538)
but I'd guess that the #1 pick would end up a Yankee (or occasionally Red Sox or other high payroll team) every year and would likely never fall to the Rays/Astros/etc.


Of the high profile amateur FAs, how many have the Yankees signed?

There have been a number of them ... DiceK, Ichiro, Kaz Matsui, Darvish, Cespedes, Puig, Abreu, Castillo, White & Lee.

For that matter why did the Yanks not sign ARod, Bonds, Maddux, etc, the best free agents in history? Why not re-sign Cano?

Yes, the Yanks would spend more than anyone and they'd gain an advantage, but I don't see why they would suddenly decide to absolutely dominate the market in a way that they have not yet.
   26. Walt Davis Posted: August 23, 2014 at 03:10 AM (#4777618)
I'm just going to quit Primer & send Walt a lifetime supply of Cokes.

Pepsi Max please ... but surely cheaper if you can work out a deal with an Aussie wholesaler rather than pay the shipping.

And, nah, always enjoy your posts ... and, y'know, Bob Dernier and stuff.

I wonder to what extent teams would just shift money from player payroll into amateur bonuses. The Yankees might go nuts but most teams probably spend X per year and that X wouldn't necessarily change. It would just redistribute money away from veterans and towards the kiddos.

That's probably mainly what would happen, even for the Yanks. You might also see a bigger reliance on college baseball -- i.e. teams still splurging on the top HS talent but unwilling to give multi-million bonuses to what is now a 2nd/3rd round HS draft pick. That would also allow them to shift some of the money they use to support the minors into draft bonuses.

This assuming the 6-year mini-reserve system stays in place.
   27. Dr. Vaux Posted: August 23, 2014 at 05:02 AM (#4777631)
The first four guys on the list in no. 25 weren't amateurs, and at least two of them weren't exactly free-agents.
   28. David Nieporent (now, with children) Posted: August 23, 2014 at 06:04 AM (#4777634)
Anyway, we certainly had a long experiment of what the world looks like when amateur talent is available in an open market and the reserve clause is in effect ... and in that experiment, the Yanks won the AL pennant 30 times in 44 years (1921-1964). And we saw what a young core and a high payroll can result in with 17 playoffs, 13 AL East champs and 7 AL pennants in 20 seasons 1995-2014.
There were a heck of a lot of differences between then and now. The Yankees just don't have the same kind of financial advantage now; in that era, the vast majority of baseball's revenues were local. The lack of FA meant that a prospect's only real payday was his signing bonus, which meant that he had to maximize his bonus at the expense of other factors. Moreover, the lack of FA meant that there were no multiyear deals, which meant that the Yankees could simply dump one player in favor of another the minute the new player became better than the old. There were no playoffs, which meant that going all out to win in a year was a much higher percentage gamble.

And, of course, there's a luxury tax, so the Yankees can't just spend whatever they want with no consequences.
   29. PreservedFish Posted: August 23, 2014 at 10:57 AM (#4777675)
The first four guys on the list in no. 25 weren't amateurs, and at least two of them weren't exactly free-agents.


Yeah, that's true. Ooops. But I think my point still stands. Maybe.
   30. Bug Selig Posted: August 23, 2014 at 01:54 PM (#4777745)
#18 ... mostly agreed but you would also have to assume that these super-Yanks would be as lucky with what is currently 2nd/3rd+ round talent as any other team. That is, they'd have still had Cano, lucked into Gardner, etc.


That was my point with the 30-affiliate comment. Unless they have a stack of rookie teams, those are exactly the guys they wouldn't get. Somebody else would have to settle for them because they got outbid for Matt Bush and Thomas Diamond:-)
   31. shoewizard Posted: August 24, 2014 at 06:56 AM (#4778019)
I think it would be enormously entertaining if MLB were run like a fantasy league keeper league. Imagine how much coverage the draft would receive, and teams that suck this year really always have a chance for major turnaround the next year. Be a bit tough on player's family's though. They already move around enough as it is.

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