Each club is assigned an annual signing bonus pool with its value being the sum of each their picks over the first 10 rounds. Teams that overspend are assessed a stiff financial penalty and could also forfeit picks in future drafts. Teams that underspend can end up with less talent than they could have accrued by better cash management.
The real challenge is in being able to adjust on the fly to the shifting dynamics of the draft. As each pick is made by one of the 30 organizations, assumptions change and other teams must alter their plans. To be ready, the financial implications of selecting any given player have to be just as available the speed of his fastball or his time to first base.
To help the St. Louis Cardinals thrive in his more challenging draft environment, the club's executives have increased their investment through the addition of two high-level amateur scouting positions.
"No longer are we able to invest in bonuses to our heart's content," said Cardinals director of amateur scouting Dan Kantrovitz. "Not to say that we have done that in the past, but teams as a whole have been able to do that as a means of getting a competitive advantage. Starting with the last draft, those investments are capped.
"One of the ways we looked at the overall competitive landscape and tried to assess where we could get a competitive advantage was investing in the actual scouting infrastructure. Scouting these players is at such a premium, even more so than in the past," Kantrovitz said.
The overall count of the Cardinals amateur scouts going from 19 to 21 does not tell the entire story. The new positions are at the two highest levels of the scouting hierarchy, where the individuals can provide the broadest impact.
"We have added a national cross-checker and a regional cross-checker," reports Kantrovitz. "That investment was a direct result of the Collective Bargaining Agreement and how we look at our scouting approach and our scouting strategy."
Strong, 34, was a professional outfielder from 2000-2008, including 28 major league games with Seattle. After his playing days ended, Strong joined the Cardinals, scouting in Southern California.
The returning regional cross-checkers are Jeremy Schied on the West Coast, Mike Roberts in the Midwest and Brian Hopkins in the Northeast. The new hire is Fernando Arango, assigned to the Southeast. Again, instead of one-third coverage, the addition means the regional cross-checkers will cover approximately one-fourth of the country.
The remainder of the Cardinals full-time amateur scouts – 14 in number - are area scouts. They are the true lifeblood of the process, unearthing and investigating each potential draftee in as much depth as possible. The Cards also employ a number of part-time scouts in high-concentration areas.
Kantrovitz is excited about the addition of Arango.
"Fernando has over 20 years of experience as a scout, most recently working for the Milwaukee Brewers as their director of international scouting," Kantrovitz noted. "He had previous cross-checking and area scouting responsibilities with other clubs before Milwaukee. He has even had experience working with player agent signings so he has a wealth of experience."
Prior to his decade with the Brewers, the 65-year-old native of Cuba was a Yankees and Rays scout. Arango is perhaps most well-known as the man who quit his job as the Midwest area scout with Tampa Bay after the Rays declined to draft Albert Pujols in 1999. Of course, Pujols fell to the Cardinals in the 13th round, becoming one of the greatest draft bargains in MLB history.
Who knows, maybe going forward, Arango can help find the next Pujols for the Cardinals.
Brian Walton can be reached via email at email@example.com. Also catch his Cardinals commentary daily at The Cardinal Nation blog. Follow Brian on Twitter.
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