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How the Tigers could get a competitive balance round draft pick

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Could the Tigers have drafted Tommy Henry or Karl Kauffmann?

NCAA Baseball: College World Series

The Michigan Wolverines made it to the College World Series finals for the first time in over half a century this season, in great part due to their starting pitchers. Left-hander Tommy Henry and right-hander Karl Kauffman were, naturally, the first two Michigan players selected in the amateur player draft on June 3. Henry was selected 74th overall by the Arizona Diamondbacks, and Kauffmann 78th by the Colorado Rockies. Both players were selected in competitive balance “Round B”.

Which teams get a competitive balance round selection?

14 major league teams were given an extra draft pick in either competitive balance Round A, which is held after the first round, or Round B, which is held after the second round of the draft. The Detroit Tigers were not one of the 14 teams. The picks are awarded to the ten teams with the smallest market score, and/ or the ten clubs with the least amount of local revenue. A team can only receive one competitive balance selection. The 14 teams alternate between Round A and Round B on a yearly basis.

Twelve teams in the largest markets are disqualified, regardless of their revenue. The Oakland A’s, who would be market disqualified under the criteria, but were dead last in local revenues, have been specifically exempted from market disqualification, but are being phased out and will be fully disqualified by next year. For this year, however, they qualified as a bottom ten revenue team, and as such received a competitive balance round selection.

What about Detroit?

So, why didn’t the Tigers get a competitive balance pick? Well, Detroit ranks 18th of 30 major league markets, not among the ten smallest, and this is not likely to change, even with a new census. If you’re really interest, the full list is published here, in attachment 26 to the Collective Bargaining Agreement, on page 239.

In terms of local revenues, the Tigers ranked 19th, with revenue of $276 million in 2018, according to Forbes.com. We can throw out revenue sharing and revenue that is distributed nationally, but that would not change their place in the pecking order for our purposes here.

The Tigers made $1 million more than Arizona, and $1 million less than San Diego. But the White Sox and Toronto are market disqualified, so that would put Detroit at 10th on the list of clubs with the smallest revenues. By this measure, the Tigers made just a bit too much revenue to get a competitive balance selection. MLB must have a different list than Forbes.

Five teams — Cleveland, St Louis, Milwaukee, San Diego, and Colorado — each had more revenue than Detroit in 2018 according to Forbes, and each of them received a competitive balance selection. The Minnesota Twins have a higher market score than Detroit, but received a competitive balance pick in Round A. Oakland received another spot on the list that could have gone to the Tigers.

I hasten to add that the Forbes list is not the official list used by major league clubs to determine which ten teams had the least amount of revenue. Clubs submit a questionnaire to the league office and the teams are announced at the winter meetings, six months prior to the draft. As mentioned above, the actual revenues used will be only local revenue, before revenue sharing. But still, Detroit had to be very close to landing a competitive balance draft pick. That is, right in the neighborhood where a couple of Michigan pitchers were selected.

And International bonus money too!

In addition to the extra competitive balance round draft selection, teams that receive those picks also receive either $1 million or $500,000 extra in bonus pool money to spend on international free agents. The idea is to give smaller market teams an advantage in letting them spend more on international bonuses. So all those teams that have a lower market score or lower revenue than Detroit also get more international bonus money to spend.

Trades change the draft order

Unlike regular draft picks, the competitive balance round picks can be traded. Five picks of the 14 in the 2019 draft were traded. Round A selections were traded from the Cincinnati Reds to the New York Yankees; from Oakland to the Tampa Bay Rays, and from the Milwaukee Brewers to Texas. A pair of Round B picks were traded from Cleveland to Seattle, and from St Louis to Arizona.

Notice that the Detroit Tigers were not one of the five teams that acquired Round A or B picks, although they’ve been quite busy unloading players in their rebuilding effort. The pick Arizona used to select Tommy Henry would have been a nice pick up in the J.D. Martinez trade.

Could Detroit get a future Competitive Balance pick?

It has been written that the list of teams eligible for competitive balance selections is locked in for the duration of the current CBA, which runs through the 2021 season. But that’s not what the rules say. Major league Rule 4(k)D (on page 61) explains how teams can become eligible*:

Any Club that is eligible for a Competitive Balance Selection in the 2018 First-Year Player Draft or any subsequent First-Year Player Draft that was not eligible for a Competitive Balance Selection in the immediately preceding Draft shall receive a selection in Competitive Balance Round B.

Now, that certainly does not say that the picks are locked in through 2021. On the contrary, there is a specific provision for teams becoming eligible. There is also a provision that will exclude Oakland from the list of ten clubs with the lowest local revenue, starting next season. Detroit could very well take Oakland’s spot, and their draft pick, or they could earn just a bit less money, which they are making a valiant effort at doing this season, and get a bonus pick for their trouble.

The formula could change with the new CBA that will take effect starting in 2022. The Tigers will also have a new local television contract— if not their very own regional sports network — after the 2021 season. So, things can change down the road. But in the interim, the Tigers could be in line for a competitive balance round B draft pick in 2020 and a Round A selection in 2021.

*Hat tip to Eddie Bajek (follow @ebajek85) for his wisdom on this subject on Twitter