Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Another Data Point

With the news that the Nationals aren't going to sign Jack McGeary, letting him walk to Stanford, NFA has tallied up what the Nats spent on the '07 draft.

All in all, it was a successful draft. The Nats got a number of highly rated players, some of whom are already succeeding in the lowest levels of the minors. Even without McGeary, the consensus is that the Nats had one of the top drafts in the league, and all involved -- Mike Rizzo, Dana Brown and their staffs -- deserve a ton of credit for what they've done.

Most importantly, the Nats signed practically everyone they should've signed. Only McGeary, a sixth-round pick, went unsigned among the top 20 picks. (NFA has a good breakdown of position/age of those players)

But what caught my eye was the bottom line. In the end, the Nats spent around $5.8 million (edit: see below) on their draft picks. The number, by itself, is basically contextless -- yeah, it's less than what Detroit spent on their kid, but then so is the GDP of Suriname.

So I asked Brian to compare that to last year's Nats' draft. They spent, strangely, roughly the same amount of money, while signing fewer players last year.

Two ways to look at it. One, it's great that they signed all those guys. I won't deny that. And I won't deny that it was a successful draft.

But (while admitting that McGeary's overall demands may have been unreasonable), it's that bottom-line figure that has me scratching my head.

When they cut payroll they said it was to invest in the farm. Yes, they've hired lots of scouts to find the great picks they've made, but where's the rest of the money? They didn't up the draft budget at all. Internationally, even as they've made some low-key signings, they haven't had a big splash like they did last year with Guy Smiley and his $1.4 million signing bonus. Did that budget flatline too?

Infrastructure and capital costs for the baseball operations department have probably gone up, but the player acquisition budget hasn't gone up at all. Does that jive with the public pronouncements team officials have repeatedly made?

Every one of the criticisms that I've leveled at the Lerners over the last year has had a "yeah, but...", a positive interpretation. This "yeah, but" is to look at how well the draft turned out and how well the kids are already doing. I can't argue with that.

But it, like so many of the other minor little things, is just another data point, another indication that when it comes to finances, actions don't always live up to the lofty words.

Any individual data point doesn't mean a damn thing in isolation.

But after a while, when you start seeing more and more data points, pretty pictures start to appear.

  • Edit: Brian sent me some revised numbers that are slightly different. They're showing about $6.3 million this year and $5.8 last year. That's an improvement, for sure, and it probably changes things slightly. But last I checked, $30 million was greater than $500 thousand.

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