Do Big Market Clubs Benefit From a Shorter Draft and Less Minor League Teams?

Mark Warmuth

The Major League Amateur Draft started in 1965. Coincidentally, the New York Yankees' dominance of the American League ended the same year.

We say coincidentally because the Bronx Bombers of that era were showing some age. Stars like Mickey Mantle and Whitey Ford were showing some age, as was former MVP Elston Howard. Yogi Berra recently retired and managed the team in '64.

From 1936-1964, New York won 22 AL pennants, and the only time they went consecutive seasons without a berth in the World Series was during World War II (1944-46).

When baseball had its only era without any free agency of any sort, from 1965 to the McNally/Messersmith decision at the end of 1975, the Yankees won no pennants. Their best finish was a pair of 2nd place finishes in 1970 and 1974.

To be fair, not being able to outspend everyone was not the only reason for the Yanks lack of titles, but it is interesting they weren't successful. The Yanks didn't make the post-season from 1982-1995 and they could spend freely in those years.

But the reason we bring this up is baseball's willingness to eliminate farm teams and shorten the amateur draft.

Developing players is the equalizer for smaller market teams that cannot afford to pay big bucks for star players.

The Indians have stayed competitive over the past seven years because of their success in developing players such as Jose Ramirez, Roberto Perez, and a cadre of pitchers, particularly starters like Shane Bieber, Mike Clevinger, and others.

We didn't count Frankie Lindor here because he was a first round pick, but none of the others we mentioned were.

If we were a mid market franchise, we would invest heavily in the farm system, bringing in as many players as we could. The more you work with, the better chance one of them becomes a big leaguer.

Remember how the St. Louis Cardinals became a power in the 1930's. Branch Rickey's extensive farm system produced players that kept the franchise contending during the 30's and 40's.

We heard former Marlins' executive David Samson say he had a problem with investing money in the player development system knowing only a few could make an impact at the big league level.

That's horrible thinking in our opinion. We look at it differently.

What value would you put on Ramirez' production with the Tribe? He's had two top three MVP finishes as an international free agent. Those two seasons alone would at worst be valued at $60 million on the open market.

Cleveland paid next to nothing.

We also feel the shortened draft plays into the hands of the teams with a more national fan base.

According to Baseball America's Top 500 Prospects coming into this year's draft, of the players not drafted, the teams signing the most players in this ranking were the Yankees, Phillies, Cubs, as well as the Padres and Royals.

Overall, the Red Sox and Reds signed the most players regarding of ranking.

The Royals got a lot of good press in saying they would pay their minor leaguers for the remainder of the season. For the record, the Indians signed one, C Joe Donovan.

There was a cap on the bonus amount for these players this year, but what happens when there isn't? Do you think the big market teams aren't going the volume route and will sign as many of these free agents as they can?

Besides the talent acquisition aspect, eliminating minor league teams hurts the sport at the grass roots level. Why would you want to expose less people to your sport?

Isn't that the antithesis to growing the game of baseball?

What's one positive thing about these two moves from the commissioner's office? Frankly, we can't think of one.

Seems like the people who run the game wanted to do something for the sake of doing something, and only thought about one thing--saving money.

Here's hoping logic prevails, but based on the last couple of months, we doubt that's possible.

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