TigsTown Draft Notebook: The Rich Get Richer

Since the Tigers boldly selected Seton Hall Prep (N.J.) right-hander Rick Porcello with the 27th pick in the draft, much has been made about the state of the current system of the draft, and whether or not it truly helps those teams who need premium players to begin to rebuild their franchises.

The system isn't perfect by any means, but there is more about Porcello's slide than meets the eye. Certainly his price tag played a huge role, but you have to factor in that this was also a terrific class of players available for teams at the top of the draft.

No one mentions that outside of Matt Harvey, who went to the Angels in the third round, the other players represented by Scott Boras went where most thought they would with the exception of Matt LaPorta, who was a surprise pick of the Brewers with the seventh overall pick. Given the plethora of quality high school pitchers available, most clubs felt comfortable in taking a comparable talent than Porcello (seven prep pitchers went off the board before Porcello).

Another issue that all teams are facing with their early picks is the 10 percent cut across the board that MLB has been pushing hard for slots in the early rounds. Baseball has been consistent in telling teams to hold the line on bonuses, and Boras almost always tends to draw the ire of the commissioner's office because teams continually are willing to shell out bigger bonuses for his clients.

Frank Coonelly, MLB's senior vice president, made the following comments in a story for the Detroit Free Press last week on doing business with Boras: "In my opinion, it does not make sense for the industry or for any individual club to pay an enormous premium to buy a high school student-athlete out of his opportunity to go to a good school, get a quality education and develop as a player," Coonelly said. "This, however, is the game Mr. Boras plays.

"He says to a club, 'This high school athlete is going to attend a quality institution of higher learning unless you pay him three, four or five times what other players who are selected around him in the draft have received.'

"To me, there is only one sensible answer to this threat, namely: 'Your client should go to school, earn his degree, develop as a baseball player, enjoy his college years and we will see him in three or four years.'"

Simply put, the above notion is completely laughable and a big reason why the Tigers were awful prior to 2006. By taking signability picks like Matt Wheatland and many others, the Tigers had a farm system that was completely barren. Think the Padres like going the signabilty route after seeing Matt Bush struggle, while Justin Verlander and others taken after him have blossomed into some of the best young players in the game?

Sooner or later, owners have to come to the realization that if they want either to build a championship team, or maintain one, a lot of money is going to be spent one way or the other. Free agency is already about the haves and the have-nots as far as teams willing to spend money to bring in players to help out their teams. The draft is the last bastion where teams are supposedly on equal footing as far as acquiring talent, but with baseball using their hardline approach to bonuses, how much longer will it take for those teams who continue to see their competition stockpile talent until they tell Bud Selig enough is enough, and we're going to get the guys we want, slotting be damned?

Most like to shout that the Yankees and Red Sox are the biggest offenders of paying above slot to land talent, but other teams like the Angels, Cubs, Braves, Blue Jays, Twins and Cardinals have also added solid prospects by spending money in the later rounds. The Astros have also done this at times in the past when they inked pitchers Troy Patton and Jimmy Barthmaier.

There is no question that the slotting system baseball has worked so hard to enforce and maintain may be crumbling because teams are no longer going to let quality talent get away for financial reasons, simply because baseball thinks it's in their best interests to do so.

Several teams have already broken away, and you can bet that the Tigers' negotiations with Porcello will be the most closely watched in the industry. Many teams have chosen not to do business with Boras, and that's their decision, but should the Tigers land Porcello, many owners may cry foul when what they need to do is look at themselves in the mirror for failing to take one of the top prep prospects available in this year's draft.

Boras has always been an easy target for critics, and while he is a source of frustration for fans, everyone must also understand that when baseball had the chance to make serious changes to make the draft better, they maintained the status quo and did nothing. You can put blame on Boras, but baseball should also get its fair share.


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