The new limitations on what clubs can spend in draft bonuses under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement are becoming clearer. Baseball America has published the amounts of the "pools" that clubs will be able to spend on player bonuses without being penalized. The Tigers have the second lowest bonus pool, which adds up to $2,099,300 for the first ten rounds of the draft.
The amount that the Tigers can spend is significantly lower because they will surrender their first round pick to the Brewers for signing Prince Fielder. Not only do the Tigers lose the pick, but they also lose the "slot bonus" that is allocated with that pick. A significant percentage of signing bonuses is given to players drafted in the first round. Only the Angels, who will lose their first and second round picks for signing CJ Wilson and Albert Pujols, will have a smaller bonus pool than the Tigers this year.
The Tigers will be able to spend their roughly $2.1 million total on the nine players drafted from Rounds 2 through 10. Any player drafted after round 10 may only be paid a bonus of $ 100,000.00 or else their bonus will also be counted against the club’s total "pool" limit. The Tigers did not add any supplemental draft picks, and thus did not add to their "pool amount" because they did not offer arbitration to any departing free agents this winter.
By contrast, the Twins will have the largest pool, almost six times as much as the Tigers, at $12,368,200. The Twins lost Michael Cuddyer, Joe Nathan, and Jason Kubel this off season. Minnesota signed Josh Willingham to partially replace the production of Kubel and Cuddyer, and they will pick up a pair of first-round picks, along with the slot money to spend on them. Not a bad deal in terms of building for the future.
The penalties for clubs paying bonuses above their pool amount are severe. Any club that exceeds its bonus pool by up to 5 percent must pay a 75 percent tax on the overage. Any club that exceeds its bonus pool by 5 to 10 percent must pay a 75 percent tax, plus they lose a first round pick in the next draft. Going above that amount will cost a 100 percent tax and the loss of first- and second-rounders for a 10-15 percent overage; and a 100 percent tax and the loss of two first-rounders for an overage of 15 percent or more.
The new rules figure to dramatically change the way that the Tigers have draft in future years. Gone is the ability to offer a major league contract to a player in his first pro contract, as the Tigers did with Justin Verlander, Rick Porcello and Jacob Turner.. Gone is the ability to make up for not having a first round pick, by simply grabbing a player in the later rounds and paying him well over slot, as the Tigers did with Nick Castellanos, who received the highest non first round bonus at the time that he signed.
The bonus pool amount that the Tigers have to spend is actually slightly higher than what they spent in the 2011 draft, as the Tigers also did not have a first round pick because they signed Victor Martinez during the previous off season. Also limited will be the amount that clubs may dish out in bonuses to international free agents, but that is a separate amount.