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Does Drafting Smart Equal Spending Less?

With the 2014 MLB First Year Player Draft beginning on June 5th I thought it would be a timely exercise to make a 25 man roster correlation between drafting, and having a low controllable payroll.

One would assume that teams with low payrolls have the highest numbers of team drafted players on their 25 man rosters and their current disabled list. The five teams with the lowest payrolls as of opening day 2014 are; Houston Astros with $44,544,174, Miami Marlins with $47,565,400, Tampa Bay Rays with $77,062,891, Pittsburg Pirates with $78,111,667 and the Cleveland Indians with $82,534,800.

There are four teams tied for third who all have 12 home drafted players currently either on their 25 man roster or on their disabled list. Those teams are the Washington Nationals, Seattle Mariners, Philadelphia Phillies, and the Cincinnati Reds. Only one of those four teams, the Seattle Mariners, has a 2014 opening day payroll under $100,000,000 with $92,081,943. The team with the second highest number of home-grown drafted talent on their 25 man roster or their disabled list is the Atlanta Braves with 14. Which is amazing considering that more than half of their 25 man roster they drafted, they developed and now are contributing and playing on their major league roster. But, the number one team has 19, that is correct 19 of their 25 man roster or current disabled list that they drafted, they developed and are now in the majors! That team ranks 13th this year in opening day payroll with $111,020,360 and that team is the St. Louis Cardinals.

So as you can clearly see, there is absolutely no correlation between having the most home-grown drafted and developed talent on a teams 25 man roster and having a low yearly payroll. So, I guess my question is, why are draft picks so coveted by so many teams? Does it not make sense to pay for proven talent instead of rolling the hypothetical dice on an unproven and uncertain college or high school kid? Especially when the fact remains that since 2005 the first 5 picks of the MLB draft have signed for bonuses (not the actual contract dollars) averaging  $4.41 million each.


  1. John Meloche John Meloche June 6, 2014

    Many teams however use their drafted talent as currency. So while The Rays might not have the most players on their roster that are home grown how many players where acquired using their talent? The Rays have set the standard for trading players like James Shields, Carl Crawford (soon David Price) before they become FA and too expensive.

    The end result might not be the most home gown talent but often talent is the currency. I would say that STL grows their own talent but also has the finances to sign players long tern and add FA as needed which is the main difference.

    Also in FA you have to pay roughly $7-8M per WAR expected while a young player making 500K and producing 3 WAR is a much more valuable asset. That is why teams are in love with young talent because pre-free agency and late arbitration the value vs $ spent ratio can be extremely high. Most prospects fail but most teams will be spending around $8-9 Million in the draft and if you get David Price or Mike Trout they can recoup that value in 1 season.

  2. Michael Ballentine Michael Ballentine June 11, 2014

    I am not really disagreeing with any of your remarks, I just thought that if a team had a plethora of home grown talent that there payroll would be in the bottom third of the 30 teams, and that is not the case. I was making the point that even though teams have fallen in love with high draft and are now seemingly clamoring for draft pick compensation that you will have to either give them up or pay them eventually.
    I thought it was ironic that draft picks are looked on as a cheap way to build your team, when in fact, it is not cheap to sign home grown talent long term. To use your two examples the Rays paid James Shields over $16 million for six years, and included Wade Davis in the deal that netted them two current minor leaguers, a 2-7 record pitcher(Odorizzi) and Wil Myers, who they will also have to eventually pay or flip again. As for Carl Crawford, the Rays paid him over $30 million for 8 seasons and allowed him to become a free agent, where he was signed by the Boston Red Sox then was traded to the Dodgers. So they received nothing in return. If they have set the standard, the standard is not very high.

    • John Meloche John Meloche June 11, 2014

      But that is thing, teams like TBR & OAK may not have the most home-grown talent but they use their talent to acquire cheap talent. If you look at the Shields trade that was a massive haul for TBR. They were never going to sign shields and in return got the #1 hitting prospect who became ROY and a serviceable young SP in Odorizzi who was respectable in 2013. Additionally back when they lost Crawford they got a 1st round compensation pick which gave them a high draft pick.

      I like your idea but my point is that for many teams its not just about drafting guys and bringing those exact players up. Many teams draft the best players available in either bring them up or trade those players for the pieces they need. Tampa uses their talented MLB players to restock the farm, especially now that they have not being getting top picks.

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