Frequently Asked Questions – Answered

7-9-21 – By Gary Morgan

You’ve all spoken pretty loudly that these types of pieces are very useful to you and because I keep getting questions, if I ever intend to get the majority answered I need to keep hammering these. Let’s dig in folks!

How Does Slotting in the Draft Work?

Big question.

I guess we should start with a bit of a history lesson. MLB and the MLBPA signed a new CBA way back in 2012, a five year pact that along with plenty of other things brought on the age of a slotted draft.

See, Bud Selig, the Commissioner at the time had already been sending lists out to all MLB clubs offering “slot guidance” which largely were ignored. Teams like the Pirates and Tigers especially ignored these guidelines. There aren’t many ways that the small market clubs had to swim in the deep end with the big boys and the draft was one.

in 2011 for instance the Pirates took Josh Bell in the second round, a player committed to go to college and reportedly in search of a signing bonus far beyond what a second rounder would get. Well, the Pirates selected him anyway, and he took a bloated bonus offer to sign with the Buccos.

You’ll sometimes see people say that the new slotting system was created in part to stop the Pirates and other teams like them from doing things like this. I’ve even seen it referred to as the Josh Bell rule. This is slightly disingenuous because the Tigers were just as involved having done the same with Nick Castellanos and Rich Porcello.

This is also why people rightly say that nobody has spent more in the draft than the Pirates, if you predate this system, it’s very true. After the system it’s more of an argument for how bad your team has been if we’re honest.

So every slot is assigned a value, and post 2012 it became real rather than suggested. Stiff penalties are in place for violating the slot values and the worse the overage the worse the penalty.

For instance if you go over slot by 5% the tax on the overages clock in at 75%. Go over by 10% and pay the tax plus lose your draft pick in the following season. It get’s worse from there but it’s also largely irrelevant since almost nobody does it.

Now, say you take a guy in the first round and the slot value is at 8.4 million like it is this season for the Pirates. If he doesn’t sign, you don’t get to just kick that money down the board, you lose the entire amount from the total you can spend. Should you manage to sign the player for say 7.9 million, you can take that 500K unused and push it toward other slots in the draft.

That last part is what people are referring to when they talk about the benefit of signing guys “under slot” and the benefit is really felt most in the supplemental rounds or the 2nd and 3rd rounds. Cal Mitchell and Steven Jennings the Pirates AA outfielder and young Starting Pitcher respectively are perfect examples of this as the Pirates picked and signed Shane Baz in the first round and under slot, affording them the ability to convince Cal and Steven to pass on college and join the Pirates.

Now, you’re asking about this because many people have told you this was a possibility this year, and it is, but not because the Pirates are being cheap, because there is no clear cut player who is nailed on 1.1 in this draft. The fact is so many of the top of the board could feasibly be chosen, and deserve it, signing the pick under the proposed slot won’t even take Chuck Norris in the room to stare at the player until he submits.

The Bucs could use this extra money in the comp pick round or even the second, but for the most part they’ll spend just about every dollar they have allotted, just like most teams do if we’re honest.

Long I know, but it’s not a simple subject. Hope this helps as you watch it unfold starting this weekend.

Published by Gary Morgan

Former contributor for Inside the Pirates an SI Team Channel

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