A large, middle-aged scout for the St. Louis Cardinals approached us with just a little too much urgency last July. My son and I had been talking with Falmouth Commodores catcher Mitch Canham (Oregon State), and we were returning to our cheap beach chairs along the first base line. “Why were you talking with Mitch?” he asked with a clinched smile.
“We’re from Washington state and he’s from near our home,” I responded, sounding eager as Gomer Pyle.
“Well, I’m with the Cardinals organization and we have him under control,” the scout informed us. Clearly he mistook me for someone who might be trying to engage the young prospect.
Under old MLB rules, the MLB could draft a kid in June and take the next year to sign him. But this fall the MLB and the Player’s Association reached agreement on an Aug. 15th signing deadline.
This rule change is a significant one for the CCBL, which opens June 15 (around draft time) and concludes as late as Aug. 15 (around the new signing deadline). The implication is that top prospects, many of whom work at odd jobs through the summer, will also be negotiating intensively through the summer with MLB scouts. This has always been true but the intensity is going to intensify.
Talking with Baseball America, Rob Manfred, MLB’s executive vice president for labor relations, had this to say: “On balance, the practice of draft-and-follows was not to our benefit in terms of the economics of the draft--there’s a certain incredulousness that in June, a guy is drafted in the seventh round and by the following June this guy is a $2 million, gotta-have player. We didn’t think that dynamic was helping us.The second reason is our relationship with the colleges. All the back-and-forth that goes on--did he enroll? Did he start? All that nonsense--we thought that the signing deadline was another good way to create leverage in the process for the clubs.”
In a separate story, Baseball America concluded that the agreement spelled the end for draft-and-follows, as major league clubs will now only control the rights to a player they draft in June until Aug. 15, rather than control a junior college player until the following draft.
"I really don't see it having much of an impact on junior college baseball, just because kids go to junior college baseball to be draft eligible, and it will still be that way," said Johnson, Chipola (Fla.) Junior College coach. "You probably won't have as many pro scouts trying to encourage and send kids to JCs after not signing them, so there won't be as much pressure to go to the junior college level."