In a short post for Baseball Prospectus, resident prospect guru Kevin Goldstein explains to readers why they shouldn't be surprised by the $1.9 million signing bonus that St. Louis Cardinals first round pick Michael Wacha recently received from the team.
Given that Wacha was selected 19th by St. Louis despite being considered a top-15 prospect in the draft class, some expected the pitcher to demand a bonus greater than the league's recommended amount, but Goldstein explains why the signing makes sense:
The pool amounts for each pick were designed to provide flexibility to teams—at least on a minor level—so these are not slots, as they actually are quite above previous slots... With a $1.9 million bonus, Wacha did not sign for slot as much as he received the full bonus pool amount for that pick, which is actually looking like a bit of a rarity... In this new system, these aren't slots as much as they are portions of a bigger pie that teams are forced to work with. Wacha got his full piece of the pie, with the second highest bonus at No. 19 in draft history, trailing only new system-mate Shelby Miller.
Under the new CBA rules that are meant to curtail draft spending, teams are allotted a pool of money that they can use to sign all of their draft picks. By going over the slot amount recommended for each pick by MLB, a team is effectively deciding to spend less money on its other picks given the spending cap and over-spending taxes that go into effect.
By signing Wacha for slot money, the Cardinals don't use a disproportionate amount of their draft spending pool on a single pick, but given that MLB put significant increases into their recommended amounts this year, he still receives one of the largest bonuses ever for where he was selected.
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