The Red Sox can build up their farm system with undrafted players.
The revised structure of this year’s MLB draft presents some challenges but there are ways for the Boston Red Sox to benefit.
This year’s draft has been cut down to five rounds instead of the usual 40. The Red Sox will only have four selections since their second-round pick was stripped as punishment stemming from the 2018 sign-stealing investigation. That puts Boston at a disadvantage since every pick is worth more with fewer rounds but they can make up for it after the draft.
Any amateur player who wasn’t selected in the draft can be signed by any team for a maximum bonus of $20,000. Hundreds of players who would have been worthy of being selected in a typical draft will be free agents. Only teams don’t need to worry about being outbid by the competition due to the low cap on bonuses, allowing teams to scoop up as many players as they can for a limited financial commitment.
If the money is about equal for any offer, teams need to rely on other factors to entice the most desirable undrafted players to sign. That’s where the Red Sox can get an advantage over most teams.
Red Sox scouting director Paul Toboni explained why the franchise’s brand and rich history can help recruit talent, per MassLive’s Chris Cotillo.
"“I grew up in the San Francisco/Bay Area, and I grew up a Giants fan. If I was signing for $20k, they probably had a huge advantage over other clubs,” said Toboni. “I will say — even though I wasn’t necessarily a Red Sox fan at that point in my life — they probably would have been No. 2, because of that brand. Seeing the Green Monster on Sunday Night Baseball and the history and all that would have had a huge impact on me. I might be thinking a little bit too optimistically there, but I do think it plays a really big part.”"
The Red Sox are a large-market team that gets their fair share of nationally televised games. That type of exposure can be appealing to players.
It’s also one of the reasons why Red Sox Nation has spread throughout the country. Players don’t necessarily need to be from around here in order to have grown up as a Red Sox fan. Joining the organization that they grew up rooting for is strong incentive for many players who wouldn’t have had a choice if they were drafted.
Fenway Park is a historic landmark and one of the most iconic venues in the game. Its unique dimensions and towering green wall in left field make Fenway an environment many players are eager to experience.
The storied history of the franchise is on display on the right field facade where the numbers of legendary players like Ted, Yaz, Pedro, and Papi are lined up. Playing on the same field where some of the game’s greatest players shined has a certain sentimental meaning to some players.
Boston has celebrated four World Series championships since 2004, the most by any major league team in the 21st century. Any undrafted player aiming to join a winning organization has to give the Red Sox serious consideration.
Players can count on the Red Sox being a contender more often than not because the current ownership group isn’t shy about spending money. Fans can gripe about the front office slashing payroll this year but Boston is still spending more than all but a few teams and they are expected to return to their free-spending ways once they reset the luxury tax.
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Undrafted players might be reluctant to sign with a small-market team knowing that they could struggle to build a contender and won’t be willing to pay them if they ever break out as a star. The Red Sox don’t have that problem.
If the brand name appeal, history, winning culture and financial resources aren’t enough to lure undrafted players, the state of the organization’s farm system should. The Red Sox have one of the lowest rated farm systems in baseball. The lack of depth and star power could allow prospects to climb the minor league ladder faster than they could with an organization that has a loaded farm system. The path is wide open for a thriving prospect to skyrocket to the top levels.
There is some concern that talented players who aren’t drafted may stay amateurs for another year and test the process again when the draft returns to the usual format with higher bonuses available. That could deplete the talent pool but there should be plenty of players willing to accept the meager bonus now in order to get a step closer to the big leagues. Forgoing an opportunity to sign now could delay their timeline to reach the majors, potentially costing them at least one season of a career when they could be making much more money.
The Red Sox are banking on finding some diamonds in the rough among these undrafted players to make up for their lost draft pick and rebuild their underwhelming farm system.