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Scouts even more crucial with new CBA
Baseball has a new collective-bargaining agreement. This is good news. Play ball.
And yet the reaction in some corners of the industry sounds a little like the booing and hissing that followed the collapse of the Congressional deficit super committee.
To those gripers, I offer the following holiday message: Tough turkey.
Major League Baseball and the players' union on Tuesday agreed to a five-year marriage. So let's hold our peace. Objecting now is like passing out Halloween candy in November — thoughtful, but ultimately too late.
The most controversial aspect of the new basic agreement — at least, to those of us who aren't irate Houston Astros fans — is that teams face restrictions on how much they can spend on amateur talent. This affects the draft. This affects international signings. This affects the way that every major-league team does business.
This — for general managers and scouting executives, agents and scouts — is a very big deal.
Like it or not, it's the law of the land. And the smartest GMs must do what they do best: identify the inefficiencies and exploit them.
Teams will have less money to spend on amateur players, which means they must be more discerning in how they allocate it. Teams can't afford to miss as often, particularly in the first 10 rounds. On Tuesday, the 30 scouting directors — who are some of the hardest-working men in the game — saw their jobs get even more difficult.
That is why the wisest teams will make a simple, necessary move.
Hire more scouts.
In the first 10 rounds, when every dollar must count, teams will need to be especially comprehensive in their analysis of amateur players. They need to scout "makeup" more than ever before, to ensure that they select the best people, not merely the most talented players.
To have success in the later rounds, teams must have boots on the ground in the more remote reaches of the United States, Canada, and Puerto Rico. Don't merely look at the over-coached showcase stars from Florida, Texas and California. Venture to the Midwest and Northeast, where you can find (cheaper) multisport high school athletes with room for projection.
Remember: Selections after the 10th round don't count against the signing bonus pool, as long as those bonuses are below $100,000. If owners want to spend big on the draft, then they can spend big on the draft: Hand out $99,999 bonuses beginning in the 11th round and watch the adding machine churn.
There's no denying the effect of first-round talent on an organization — see Cy Young Award winners Justin Verlander and Clayton Kershaw — but superstars are found in the later rounds, too.
Consider the players who some analysts believe should have won the MVP awards in each league: Matt Kemp and Jose Bautista. Kemp was a sixth-round pick in 2003 from an Oklahoma high school. Bautista was a 20th-round pick in 2000 from a Florida junior college.
If GMs are upset about the new CBA, they should tell their owners to invest in the best scouts — and empower them to find the next Kemp or Bautista.
Hot Stove, Thanksgiving style
• The Boston Red Sox weren't able to name a manager on the final working day before Thanksgiving, but they addressed one important item of business: They offered salary arbitration to free-agent designated hitter David Ortiz, a sign of their interest in retaining him for 2012.
Because of the depressed DH market and Ortiz's sizeable salary this year ($12.5 million), the arbitration offer to him was more significant than in other cases around the league. Given the shortage of teams interested in signing a DH — particularly at those dollars — it's more likely than not that the 36-year-old Ortiz will return to Boston for the '12 season.
Meanwhile, major league sources indicated Wednesday that Bobby Valentine remains the favorite to be named the next Boston manager. But in a circuitous search that has lasted nearly two months, it's hard to predict what might happen next. The Republican presidential candidates have held five debates in the time it has taken the Red Sox to not arrive at a decision about Terry Francona's successor.
• Albert Pujols told the St. Louis Post-Dispatch Wednesday that Dan Lozano will continue to work as his agent, following the publication of a Deadspin.com report alleging malpractice and unethical conduct by Lozano.
In a statement to FOXSports.com, Lozano's attorney Martin Singer called the story an "absurd concoction of outrageous false and defamatory lies and complete fabrications." An official with the Major League Baseball Players' Association, which regulates the activity of agents in the sport, declined to say Wednesday whether the union plans to investigate the matter.
• The Red Sox, who have yet to address their need for starting pitching, are among the teams in pursuit of free-agent left-hander C.J. Wilson, sources said.
The Angels, Blue Jays, Marlins, Nationals and Yankees also have interest in the 31-year-old. The Rangers remain in the mix to re-sign Wilson, even though they signed Joe Nathan and moved former closer Neftali Feliz into the rotation.
The Royals have expressed interest in Wilson, but it's not clear how aggressive they will be now that they have traded for one left-handed starter (Jonathan Sanchez) and re-signed another (Bruce Chen). Then again, Kansas City had the second-worst rotation ERA in the majors this year (4.82), and there is no such thing as "enough pitching depth."
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