Regardless what happens on the field this season, the Giants’ biggest pitches may come June 11 and the ensuing few days.
It’s not yet clear if there will be a baseball season, but there will be a period for baseball teams to woo prospects who suddenly find themselves free agents — albeit free agents with so little leverage.
As the draft slices to five rounds this year, a result of a late March agreement between MLB and the Players Association that protected their own interests but not those of potential future major leaguers, there will be a mad dash to sign prospects who in other seasons would command hundreds of thousands of dollars as a signing bonus, but this year are capped at $20,000.
Formerly, teams would need to lure players away from college, with that signing bonus the must effective method. They won’t have that at their disposal, as the owners found a place to save money, and instead have to sell the organization. They’ll be competing against both other major league teams and colleges, as the NCAA has extended an extra year of eligibility to seniors.
A brutal draw for prospects is quite an opportunity for every team, the Giants included.
“I don’t think anybody’s excited about it. I think it’s a disappointment that the draft has to be shortened, but it’s an economic reality,” Farhan Zaidi said on “Tolbert, Krueger & Brooks” on Thursday. “Once the draft is over, teams are going to be able to sign an unlimited number of players for $20,000. There are going to be some really good players left over after just five rounds of drafting. I think for every organization, including our own, we want to make sure we have a good list of players that we’re targeting.
“We’re going to have to pitch our teams and our organizations. It’s going to be a different recruiting experience than we’ve ever had before. The guys that would have gone at the top of the sixth round are going to have 20-30 teams interested in signing them. It’s all going to be about making a unique pitch to them.”
The Giants will have a strong system to sell, a new minor league spring training complex expected to open next year and a front office that has shown a willingness to accelerate prospects’ graduations if the prospects show they should be graduated. But perhaps the most effective method of bringing in prospects who just watched hundreds of thousands slip away as they slipped out of the fifth round is by paying minor leaguers more, as the team has pledged to do, one of a handful of clubs giving early raises to minor leaguers.
“Hopefully we can talk about the strides that we’ve made in player development, what a great place it is to get to be a professional athlete, being in the Bay Area,” Zaidi said on KNBR. “And the opportunity that we’re going to have in the coming years for young guys coming through our system to establish themselves at the major league level. That’s going to be a big effort for us in the coming weeks.”