Draft requires thinking cap
Baseball’s amateur draft is Monday, and there are new rules under the collective bargaining agreement that could affect teams like the Red Sox more than others.
The Red Sox were always able to overpay for players, and thus could sign high-risk draftees such as Blake Swihart that also had the option to play big-time college football.
Now each team has a spending cap (the number varies according to draft position) and will incur a hefty penalty for exceeding it. For the Sox, the limit is $6,884,800. To put that in perspective, they spent $6.65 million on their first four picks last season.
Now with teams on more equal footing, how well they scout will come into play even more. They can’t just wait for a player to fall off the board because of signability issues and then pay them off.
Red Sox general manager Ben Cherington and scouting director Amiel Sawdaye said they will not draft by need but by talent.
“Get the best players, “ Cherington said of his goal. “Make more out of the picks than our competition, that’s the priority in every draft.
“You don’t get every player you want and don’t hit on every player, but it’s important to have the best board available to make those decisions productive.’’
Sawdaye doesn’t believe the new rules will affect how the Sox make their selections.
“There’s always been guys who have outpriced themselves,’’ he said. “There are going to be players at our pick that we’re going to be excited about. Certainly there are ramifications with the new CBA. Not any more challenging than in years past.’’
Cherington said the Sox, who this year have the 24th, 31st, and 37th overall selections, have done well selecting players in the 15-100 range.
“Often the players taken were signed to traditional signing bonuses, with a couple of exceptions,’’ said Cherington. “We’ve done some things differently later in the draft. There will be differences this year later in the draft.’’
Would the Sox consider taking the penalty - which could be a fine or the loss of a pick - if there was a player they really wanted and they knew following year’s draft might not be as deep?
“We’re going to try to work within the rules to get best possible return,’’ Cherington said. “Picks are very valuable, so I don’t foresee a scenario where we’d be willing to give up a pick, and that’s a potential penalty.’’
Signability becomes a huge issue, because if there’s a player in the early rounds that is very costly, he could eat up the majority of a team’s allotment and hurt its chances of signing all of its picks under the cap.
Draft picks also have to be signed by July 13 - almost a month earlier than the old date - which puts a lot of pressure on both sides to make a decision.
In the end, teams like the Red Sox will be spending almost a third less than they normally would on the draft.
“It’s relative to the competition,’’ Cherington said. “Our job has always been - whether it was under the old rules or different rules - it’s still about getting a better return than the competition. I don’t see it as hampering us. The challenge is different, but the fundamentals are the same.’’
Sawdaye feels the Sox have a good group of scouts that has been together for a while.
“The foundation for what we do is based on our area scouts, and if you have strong area scouts who believe in a player, it doesn’t matter where the player is taken,’’ he said.
“Will we spend less? Maybe. But we’re still going to get good players.’’
Among the top New England players who could be drafted are outfielder Rhett Wiseman of BB&N and second baseman L.J. Mazzilli (son of former major leaguer Lee Mazzilli) of UConn.
Pedroia willing, but . . .
Dustin Pedroia said the swelling in his right thumb has gone done and his range of motion is improving. The second baseman, who has a torn muscle in the thumb, was trying out his brace before Thursday’s 7-3 loss to the Tigers and also had a mitt on.
He insisted he could play defense if the team needed him and could even hit with the brace, but it doesn’t appear that Bobby Valentine will go there.
With the Sox playing in Toronto this weekend, Valentine gave Will Middlebrooks the night off. When Middlebrooks starts at third, Kevin Youkilis has started at first base and Adrian Gonzalez in right field.
But with the hard turf at Rogers Centre, Valentine expects that he’ll have to rest Youkilis, who is coming off a bad back, and will likely keep Gonzalez away from the outfield, as the ball tends to jump off it.
Middlebrooks, who was a shortstop in high school, took grounders there before Thursday’s game and could play the position, with Mike Aviles moving to second, if Valentine wanted.
At his pregame press conference, Valentine said Youkilis “looks great’’ after returning from the back strain. “And his at-bats are good, consistent. I don’t want to say dramatically [different]. I think different.’’
Valentine did not anticipate roster changes over the weekend in Toronto.
The Red Sox bullpen gave up three runs in two innings against the Tigers, but ended May with a 2.37 ERA, its best for relievers in a month since July 2007, when it was 2.10.