Evolution Of Draft
Bonus Rule In Effect: If a club signed a player for more than the bonus limit (usually $4,000-$6,000), the club had to carry the player on its big league roster; teams purpotedly evaded the rule with under the table payments while the clubs who reported above limit bonuses saw high school players sitting on the big league bench and unable to gain experience in the minors.
No Restrictions In Place: The bonus rule was repealed at the 1950 winter meetings; with no restrictions in effect, signing bonuses skyrocketed.
Bonus Rule Back In Effect: Players paid more than $4,000 or signed to multi-year contracts had to be placed on the major league roster and were exposed to waivers if optioned to the minors; top prospects rotted away on big league benches.
Bonus Rule Lifted Again: Clubs were required to protect their top first-year prospects on their 40-man rosters or risk losing the player to waivers or the Rule 5 draft; over $50 million was spent on bonuses during this time.
Reichardt Sets Bonus Record: The Los Angeles signed outfielder Rick Reichardt to a record $205,000 bonus.
Draft Implemented: To curb the escalating bonuses, owners implemented an amateur draft for all high school seniors, and all college players who were sophomores or at least age 21; after five players received $100,000+ bonuses in 1964, only Rick Monday received a $100,000+ bonus ($104,000) in 1965. Monday’s bonus remained the highest for a drafted player until 1975.
College Rule Changes: College players were now eligible for the draft if they were juniors and at least age 21 on draft day (later changed to age 21 no later than 45 days after the draft).
Scouting Bureau Created: An independent scouting bureau was created to help clubs evaluate players.
Draft Eligibility Changed Again: All college juniors were now eligible for the draft, even if they were not 21 yet.
Player Finally Receives Higher Bonus Than Reichardt: It was not until the 15th draft that a player topped the bonus Reichardt received in 1964, the last year before the draft. The Yankees provided Todd Demeter with a $208,000 signing bonus.
Scouting Bureau Becomes Part of MLB: The Scouting Bureau became part of the Commissioner’s Office.
Owners Still Able To Keep Bonuses Down: Ken Griffey Jr., the first overall pick of the 1987 draft, received a $160,000 signing bonus which was less than the $205,000 signing bonus Reichardt received in 1964, the last year before the draft.
Bonuses Start To Skyrocket: With baseball teams making good money, agents began negotiating harder which led to some huge deals: the Orioles provided LSU righthander Ben McDonald with a three-year $824,300 major league contract that included a $350,000 bonus, and the Blue Jays provided Washington State first baseman John Olerud with a three-year $800,000 contract that included a $575,000 bonus.
Draft Eligibility Expanded: Residents of Canada, Puerto Rico, and other U.S. Territories, who met the other requirements, became eligible for the draft.
Seven Digit Contracts Emerge: The Oakland A’s signed Todd Van Poppel to a three-year major league contract that guaranteed him $1.2 million and included a $500,000 bonus.
First Seven Digit Signing Bonus: After striking out 213 batters in 88 innings with a fastball that touched 99 mph, the New York Yankees offered high school lefthander Brien Taylor a $300,000 bonus, but after tough negotiations and just hours before Taylor was set to begin classes, the Yankees agreed to give Taylor a $1.55 million signing bonus, which was more than double the previous highest bonus. Taylor dominated his first two years in professional baseball but was never the same after injury his shoulder in a fight.
Taylor’s Bonus Record Broken: The Marlins drafted Josh Booty and provided him with a $1.6 million signing bonus.
Loophole Forever Changes The Draft: Four players were declared free agents because they did not receive contract within 15 days of being drafted. All received huge contracts: Travis Lee ($10.2 million, Phillies), Matt White ($10 million Devil Rays), John Patterson ($6.075 million Diamondbacks), Bobby Seay ($3 million, Devil Rays). The rule was later amended to allow clubs 15 days to send out a contract after they are notified of a rule violation, but the large contracts provided ammunition to agents in subsequent years and caused signing bonuses to skyrocket.
Drew’s holdout unsuccessful: J.D. Drew demanded a bonus in line with the 1996 free agents but was unable to come to an agreement with Phillies; the highest signing bonus given out was to Matt Anderson, who was given $2.505 million by the Tigers.
Drew’s Holdout Pays Off/Burrell Shatters Record: Clubs could no longer fight off the impact of the 1996 loophole signings. The St. Louis Cardinals drafted J.D. Drew and signed him to a four-year major league contract that guaranteed him $7 million; the Phillies drafted Pat Burrell and signd him to a five-year major league contract that guranteed him $8 million, a new record for a drafted player.
Round Limit Imposed: A 50-round limit was imposed (before, clubs could keep selecting players for as long as they wished).
Beckett Sets Record For High School Player: The Marlins drafted Josh Beckett and signed him to a four-year major league contract that guaranteed him $7.227 million, a record for a high school player.
Recommended Slots Start But Borchard Sets Bonus Record: The Commissioner’s Office implemented recommended slots for all picks in the top three rounds (later changed to top five rounds) and a recommended maximum bonus for all other rounds; nevertheless, Joe Borchard received a $5.3 million signing bonus from the White Sox to set a new bonus record. Overall, however, first round bonuses were up 3.5% from the year before, after increasing by about 30% each year in the 1990s.
Prior Sets Record: The Cubs drafted Mark Prior and signed him to a record-setting five year major league contract that guaranteed him $10.5 million. Mark Teixeira became the second highest paid drafted player, receiving a four year major league contract from the Rangers that guaranteed him $9.5 million.
Bonuses Drop: First round bonuses drop 16.2%, but Rickie Weeks received a five-year major league contract from the Brewers that guaranteed him $5 million, the seventh highest total at the time.
Drew Receives Fifth Highest Contract In Draft History: The Diamondbacks drafted Stephen Drew and signed him to a five-year major league contract that guaranteed him $7.1 million, the fifth highest total in draft history.
Signing Deadline Moved Up: The signing deadline was changed to August 15 (previously it was when a player attended his first class, or seven days before the following year’s draft if the player did not attend class).
Price Receives Huge Contract: The Devil Rays drafted David Price and signed him to a six-year major league contract that guaranteed him $8.5 million, the third highest amount ever given to a drafted player.
Strasburg Shatters Record: The Nationals drafted Stephen Strasburg and signed him to a four-year major league contract that guarantees him $15.4 million, easily shattering the previous record (Prior’s $10.5 million set in 2001).
Cole Sets Overall Signing Bonus Record: UCLA righthander Gerrit Cole, the top overall pick in the draft, received an $8 million signing bonus by Pittsburgh Pirates. It was the largest signing bonus ever received by any player.
Starling Sets Signing Bonus Record For A High School Player: Kansas high school Bubba Starling received a $7,500,000 signing bonus by the Kansas City Royals. It was the highest signing bonus ever received by a player drafted and signed out of high school.
Bryant Receives Fourth Highest Signing Bonus: Kris Bryant, a third baseman for the University of San Diego, was selected second overall by the Chicago Cubs and received a $6,708,400 signing bonus, the fourth highest signing bonus of all-time. Bryant made his major league debut on April 17, 2015.
Rodon Receives Highest Bonus Ever For A Lefthanded Pitcher: Carlos Rodon, a lefthanded pitcher for North Carolina State, was selected third overall by the Chicago White Sox and received a $6,582,000 signing bonus, the highest ever for a lefthanded pitcher and the fifth highest overall. Rodon made his major league debut on April 21, 2015.