NEW YORK (AP) — Major league teams have spent a record $267.95 million on signing bonuses for players drafted last month, a 7.4 percent increase from last year’s final total of $249.38 million.
Spending initially declined when restraints were put in place ahead of the 2012 draft, but has gradually risen under the five-year labor contract with the players’ association.
Teams spent $234 million in the 2011 draft on amateurs residing in the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico. The total dropped to $209 million in the first year of restraints, went up to $220 million the following year, then rose to $224 million in 2014 and $249 million in 2015, according to figures compiled by Major League Baseball.
“The amateur draft has been a principle reason for the level of competitive balance that you’ve seen in the game in recent years,” baseball Commissioner Rob Manfred said last week.
“It re-established the original purpose of the draft, which was to get the clubs that played the worst the year before access to the best talent.
“The pseudo-slotting system has done away with this nonsense that used go on where the best player would get picked 21st because he had demands that clubs didn’t think they’d be able to meet, and I think that’s been a really, really important change.”
Teams draft in the reverse order of their record the previous year. Baseball’s labor contract that began in 2012 assigned each club a bonus pool — the sum of the recommended draft bonuses for a team’s selections in the first 10 rounds.
For players selected in the 11th round and beyond, portions of signing bonuses above $100,000 count against the signing bonus pool. The slot values rise each year based on industry revenue growth and cannot decrease.
Clubs that exceed their pools are assessed a 75 percent tax on the amount over from 0-5 percent, then additionally would be penalized with the loss of a first-round pick the next year if they are more than 5 percent over. No team has exceeded 5 percent in the five seasons of the system.
Atlanta spent the most this year on amateur draft signing bonuses at nearly $15.6 million, followed by Philadelphia ($15 million), San Diego ($14.9 million) and Cincinnati ($14.7 million).
The Chicago Cubs were last at $2.96 million.
Players had until last Friday to reach agreements, except for those who have exhausted college eligibility; they can sign until a week before next year’s draft.