The general consensus is that this is a weak draft class, especially when compared to last year's monster collection of talent. For many, the most interesting aspect of this year's draft might not be who is selected by whom, but rather what happens in terms of negotiations between the picks and the new July 13 signing deadline. That deadline isn't the only new draft rule that comes with the latest collective bargaining agreement. The new CBA also includes assigned signing bonus pools for each team, strict penalties for exceeding them, and the inability to provide major league contracts. In other words, we're entering uncharted waters.
Enter Scott Boras, the man whom most of the changes to the draft in the last 20-plus years have revolved around. He's found plenty of tactics and loopholes to get the best deals for the draft prospects he is advising, and nobody in the industry thinks that will stop just because of stringent guidelines.
"People have to remember that Boras tends to find things to his clients' advantage," said one American League scouting official. "And when baseball tries to fight him on them, they tend to lose."
An AL assistant GM agreed: "Boras did not recruit Lance McCullers and Albert Almora by telling them they're just going to get slot money."
But what are Boras' options with teams unable to offer huge packages and major league deals? It'll take time for teams and advisers to find a middle ground with the new rules, but a poll in the industry suggests Boras' first tactic will be simply to attempt to convince teams that his players are worth the penalty.
"I'm sure he'll try to convince somebody that [Stanford right-hander Mark] Appel is worth whatever the penalty is," said an American League general manager. "I'm sure he'll try to show that the player is worth it, but what is the leverage now? To bring him back next year under the same rules?"
Boras contends that he's not trying to fool anyone. "I'm a lawyer and I understand something has been collectively bargained, and we are in no position to ask anyone to give it away," he said. "I'll play by their rules, and I don't want to complain about it. I don't want shenanigans."
Of course, that won't stop people in the industry from speculating about what Boras could do to circumvent the system, and here are a few possibilities.