Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Signing Amateurs: Time for a Change

After months of stress... no? concern... not that either?  Ok then. 

After months of completely pointless waiting, the Washington Nationals signed Bryce Harper Monday night at the very last second possible, as everyone knew would happen.

What everyone didn't know was for how much and what kind of contract.  Harper will earn $9.9 million over 5 seasons, and $6.25 of that will be a signing bonus.  That makes both the signing bonus and the amount of money less than what Strasburg commanded at this time last year, to no one's surprise.

What surprised me somewhat was that he earned a major-league contract... at 17 years old!  A major league contract immediately puts Harper on the 40-man roster, only to be demoted to the Gulf Coast League and using up an option.  Because he has no MLB experience, Harper will get 4 options on this first contract, so the Nats would be out of them by 2013 if he doesn't make the big club's roster that season.

But you knew all of this information about Harper.  What we really need is to get down to the issue of the draft and sign delay.  MLB is due for a collective bargaining agreement after 2011, which means it'll be time to eliminate the needless 2 month delay between the draft and the signing deadline.  Because of this arbitrary deadline, the Nationals lost 2 months of time where Harper could have been in the GCL developing, making him available that much sooner for the Nats.  And 29 other clubs lost the same opportunity on their top prospects. (Not everyone can have a top-10 pick that signs right after the draft, thanks Drew Storen!)

Instead, Harper will spend time in the GCL, only for the season to end after a few weeks.  So Harper has been out of baseball since the College of Southern Nevada was eliminated from the JUCO World Series in early June.  Harper was obviously going to sign, but he had to wait, because thats what his agent, Scott Boras, rightly advised him to do.  It's time to fix this issue immediately. 

Let kids play baseball; don't make them wait for a random date just so they can continue playing the sport that they love again.  Changing this will help players, clubs, fans, and agents.  There's no reason for this delay between the draft and sign dates.

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