Every Club’s Bonus Pool If Dave Cameron Were in Charge

Last week, writing for Just a Bit Outside, managing editor Dave Cameron advanced a proposal — for roughly the fourth time during his tenure at FanGraphs — advanced a proposal for abolishing the draft, which proposal he examined in greater depth during Monday’s edition of the podcast.

Summarized briefly, Cameron suggests that combining a draft and strict bonus-allocation system for amateur talent is essentially redundant. The league doesn’t need the former if it has the latter. And if it has the latter, extending it to international talent becomes rather easy — certainly easier than installing an international draft.

Summarized less briefly, Cameron suggests this:

[W]hat if there was no draft? Instead, what if we just lumped all new players — foreign or domestic — into a single acquisition system where each player was free to sigh with the team of his choice, only with firm spending caps in place to ensure that young talent flows more freely to clubs that can’t compete on major-league payroll alone? In other words, a team’s talent acquisition budget would be inversely tied to its major-league payroll; the more you spend on big leaguers, the less you get to spend on prospects, and vice versa.

Last year, Major League Baseball gave out combined domestic draft and international signing bonus allocations of $285 million, or $9.5 million per team. Instead of distributing the pools based on prior year winning percentage — which rewards failure and incentivizes teams to lose on purpose — the player acquisition budgets could be increased or decreased based on the percentage of deviation from the league average major-league payroll. Last year, the league average payroll was $115 million, so a team that ran a $150 million payroll would have a 30-percent overage, and would in turn have its new talent acquisition pool decreased by 30 percent.

Below is a table featuring each club’s bonus pools for 2015 were Cameron’s proposal employed. The total overall bonus money is the same, but is allocated according not to where each club has finished in the standings, but to the funds they’ve committed to their major-league roster.

Pay denotes 2014 opening-day payroll; O/U, the percentage of that payroll relative to league average; and xPool, the expected bonus pool amount for the relevant club according to their major-league spending.

# Team Pay O/U xPool
1 Astros $44.5 -61.3% $15.3
2 Marlins $47.6 -58.7% $15.1
3 Rays $77.1 -33.1% $12.6
4 Pirates $78.1 -32.2% $12.6
5 Indians $82.5 -28.3% $12.2
6 Athletics $83.4 -27.6% $12.1
7 Twins $85.8 -25.5% $11.9
8 Cubs $89.0 -22.7% $11.7
9 Mets $89.1 -22.7% $11.7
10 Padres $90.1 -21.7% $11.6
11 White Sox $91.2 -20.8% $11.5
12 Royals $92.0 -20.1% $11.4
13 Mariners $92.1 -20.0% $11.4
14 Rockies $95.8 -16.8% $11.1
15 Brewers $103.8 -9.8% $10.4
16 Orioles $107.4 -6.7% $10.1
17 Braves $110.9 -3.7% $9.8
18 Cardinals $111.0 -3.6% $9.8
19 Reds $112.4 -2.4% $9.7
20 D-backs $112.7 -2.1% $9.7
21 Blue Jays $132.6 15.2% $8.1
22 Nationals $134.7 17.0% $7.9
23 Rangers $136.0 18.2% $7.8
24 Giants $154.2 33.9% $6.3
25 Angels $155.7 35.2% $6.2
26 Tigers $162.2 40.9% $5.6
27 Red Sox $162.8 41.4% $5.6
28 Phillies $180.1 56.4% $4.1
29 Yankees $203.8 77.0% $2.2
30 Dodgers $235.3 104.4% -$0.4*
Average $115.1 0.0% $9.5

*Which is to say $0. Either that, or a $0.4 tax for more than slightly doubling the average league payroll.

This information is relevant today also because, with the Padres’ signing of James Shields, the order and projected pools for this year’s amateur draft are now set. Clubs such as Oakland, Pittsburgh, and Tampa Bay — because of their relative success — are all subject to more restrictive amateur spending limits than their payrolls would otherwise dictate. The Phillies and Yankees, meanwhile, benefit from having played poorly in 2014 despite considerable resources.





Carson Cistulli has published a book of aphorisms called Spirited Ejaculations of a New Enthusiast.

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Braby21
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Braby21

How would the Dodgers negative 400k work?

Dave Cameron
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Member

Most likely, their 100% overage would just result in them being prohibited for signing any player for more than $100,000 — the line at which bonuses begin counting against pool money — and the additional overage over 100% wouldn’t incur any additional penalty.