Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Belying the Lie: Giants Are Not Cheap in the Draft

The funny thing about us humans is that we all look at the facts that affirm your impression of the situation, just to reinforce that "we are right".  I'm as guilty of it as anyone, that's why I try harder to get beyond that and test my beliefs.  That is what led me to research the draft, because I too, like every other Giants fan, thought "what's wrong with the Giants drafting, why are they so lousy?"  Turned out that winning and being one of the best teams in the majors greatly reduces your success rate developing players.

That brings me to today's grab bag of fun facts.  Baseball America graciously make a number of their content available for free and one is their Ask BA column, to which I link here.   In this one, they list (essentially) the final total for draft expenditures by club for 2008 and 2007.  It is the total spending by each team for bonuses.  

Now, most comments I've seen lately, after "the Neukom Way" was announced in his press conference, is that "finally" the Giants are focusing on player development, a feeling they have held onto, hard, since the Giants signed Michael Tucker to avoid a draft pick and use the money more productively in the short-term. 

Giants Been Big Spenders

So it might surprise these hardy souls that the Giants have been among the biggest spenders on bonuses the past two drafts.  In the 2008 draft, the Giants spent a little over $9M on bonuses, which would have been a record spend in the 2007 draft where $8M was the high bar.  They were beat out by three of the teams who drafted ahead of them, Royals, Rays, and Pirates, and by the Red Sox, who shelled out Top 5-10 type money to draft picks later in the draft.  The Giants were 5th overall in spending on bonuses, and could have been higher as they were pursuing hard a couple of prospects who ended up not signing, who were highly rated but fell for whatever reasons.

In the 2007 draft, with all their extra picks, they ended up 6th in spending with $7.4M spent.   The teams ahead were the Rays, Orioles, Yankees, Nationals, and Tigers (not in that order, though all were roughly right around $8M spent, about $100K apart). 

Over the two years, the Giants were third in spending on the draft, with $16.5M spent on bonuses for draft picks.   The Rays were first with $17.9M and the Royals were second with $17.8M.  The Red Sox took 4th with $15.4M spent.  This all before the end of the Bonds era, all before the Giants Way.

Myth of Giants Cheapness  

The Giants have never been cheap, either, the way some have described them.  Some observers have said that the Giants "draft down", i.e. select prospects who they can sign for a cheaper amount, just because they have been in the habit of selecting players that other teams and the draft experts think should be drafted lower.  

The biggest example of this I can think of was the selection of Nate Schierholtz.   Experts were surprised he was drafted so high.  Yet, he's the only one to make the majors out of the picks in the 2nd round after him and between him and the next Giants pick of Brian Buscher, the only ones to make more of an impact in the majors are Chris Ray and Ryan Garko, the other 27 have either not made the majors or not done much in the majors, either in AB or OPS.   So the Giants appear to have made the right choice here.

In addition, I had researched this previously and the only year the Giants truly were cheap was in 2003 when they had two who were very underpaid relative to the draftees around him, and two who were slightly underpaid.  Still, Schierholtz was paid over the amount paid to those following him, which is as expected.    

And there were no first round pick who received a bonus that was lower than the average of what the guys behind him got.   In fact, for both Lincecum and Bumgarner, they received bonuses that were above slot, and obviously Posey got way above slot.   The Giants have been anything but cheap with their first round draft picks, particularly in the past few years.

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