This is one thing that boggles my mind harder than playing Boggle in a bog. Here you have the Chicago White Sox and the Detroit Tigers, two of the marquee franchises in Major League Baseball. They're both currently competing for a division crown, and they're both doing okay in attendance. There's money to be spent. And boy, they're spending it. It's just kind of "Boggling-in-a-bog" crazy how they've chosen to spend it.
This season, the Tigers are spending a total of $106.9 million on their MLB payroll, while the White Sox are spending a total of $127.8 million. Last season, those figures sat at $133.9 and $103.0, respectively. So in general, these teams are spending around $235 million each season combined on their MLB rosters. There are only a few select teams in baseball- the Yankees, Red Sox, Cubs, Mets and Angels- that have that kind of financial might, year-in, year-out.
And yet, among all 30 MLB teams, no teams spent less on the draft this year than the White Sox and the Tigers. Based on figures compiled by Baseball America, we see that the White Sox spent a total of $2.78 million on the draft this year, while the Tigers spent about $2.88 million. Compared to the $234.7 million that they've spent on MLB rosters this season, and the clubs are spending about 2.4% of that figure on signing draftees.
Here's another way to put it: the White Sox have spent more in 2011 on paying Braves reliever Scott Linebrink's salary than they've spent on signing their draft class. That right there is completely and utterly unacceptable for any MLB organization that's ran by people with hands- if you have hands, you can write checks.
Compare that to this year's Pittsburgh Pirates. They're spending just $42 million on their payroll for this season, but they just forked up an MLB-record $18 million in signing bonuses to retain an absolutely stacked draft class. I know that the Pirates weren't planning on contending in 2011 while the White Sox and Tigers have been going all-out from the start, but the larger point is that there's no excuse for a team not to spend on the draft. Whether your MLB payroll sits at $40 million or $140 million, investing $15 million in the draft will ALWAYS be the right investment, because the potential return is absolutely massive and potentially franchise-changing.
The Tigers haven't always been this cheap, though. They've forked up in the past for the likes of Justin Verlander and Rick Porcello. Heck, even last year they spent more money on Nick Castellanos than they spent on their entire draft class for this season. So in some ways, I'm willing to give them a pass on this year's draft, assuming that it's just a one-year thing. Although I will admit that they chose an awfully poor time to get cheap, as this year's draft has been regarded as one of the most deep in recent memory.
But the White Sox... oy. They're a team that's in desperate need of cheap, controllable players, and they're eschewing the one avenue where you can realistically acquire those players. They have a shallow farm system, minimal presence in Asia, a good-but-not-great presence in Latin America and a roster that's getting older and more expensive every year. They're precisely the kind of team that should be battling the likes of the Red Sox and Nationals for expensive prep players and college juniors.
I've always believed that any reasonably smart organization should be able to recognize the strength of investing money into amateur players through the draft. Whether you're a small-market club or the Yankees, the draft is an avenue through which every club is capable of acquiring elite young talent. I just don't know how you can be a big-market club like the White Sox, look at the draft, and decide that the money is better spent elsewhere.
I don't care if you're a contender with a $30 million payroll or a bottom-feeder forking up $150 million to hang out in the basement; you should be spending big on the draft. If you're on top, the draft is the one thing capable of keeping you there. And if you're not? Well, the draft is probably the only way back up. I get the vibe that Kenny Williams doesn't hang around BTB all day looking for advice, but if he is, I'd have to recommend having a meeting with Jerry Reinsdorf about the baseball operations budget.