The White Sox’s meager MLB draft bonus pool is the result of unhealthy priorities

With all qualifying offer decisions on hold following Scott Boras’ announcement that former New York Mets outfielder Michael Conforto will not sign a contract with a major league club this year, the league has finalized the draft slots and bonus pool amounts for the 2022 MLB Draft. The Chicago White Sox will have $6,289,100 available in their bonus pool, as mentioned by Josh Nelson in the latest Sox Machine Rough draft.

That number is the third-lowest bonus total in the sport, just ahead of the Los Angeles Dodgers and San Francisco Giants. The league considers the Pale Hose to be a revenue generator for the large market despite its history of spending in the middle market, and due to this association, it does not receive any compensatory selections that would accelerate the potential amount of its bonus pool.

The front office should refrain from any narratives about not procuring enough talent through the draft due to dwindling bonus pool space while battling at the big league level. Given that the brain trust at 35th and Shields is often run like a mafia family and outsiders find it difficult to discern the level of responsibility for the actions of particular club employees, no one really knows who decided to deliberately ignore the ability to add an additional top-100 draft pick. out of season.

The Carlos Rodòn conundrum was one of the most puzzling decisions of the winter. Not being willing to sign a market-value contract for left-handedness is an arguable position for an organization familiar with his medical history and work habits. Avoiding the chance of receiving draft compensation that would come with his free agent departure because the franchise was unwilling to gamble on the possibility of another one-year deal is organizational malpractice.

Had the White Sox extended their left-handed free agent a qualifying offer, the organization would have received the 80th overall pick in the 2022 draft along with an additional $800,000 injected into their bonus pool. The only potential downside for the club would be paying a $4.9 fWAR starting pitcher $18.4 million to pitch for them this season; something that it seems they were totally unwilling to do. Instead of having one of the smallest pools in the league for the next draft, the club would have been around 22nd place overall.

Chances are Rodòn accepted the offer to qualify, but despite what the organization thinks, that would have been a desirable outcome. The club may not have had the financial incentive to budget additions like Josh Harrison, Joe Kelly and eventually Johnny Cueto with the southpaw in the fold, but observers would have been too busy celebrating to care.

By not extending the offer, the White Sox ultimately get neither. Carlos Rodón is thriving in San Francisco and the defending American League Central champions don’t have an additional draft pick with expanded bonus pool space to show off what was an incredibly shrewd signing followed by an eventual departure . The extra pick could be the difference between getting two top-50 draft prospects instead of three. It could have provided a boost that baseball’s worst farming system could use.

On the other hand, we’re talking about the 80th pick overall and there’s not much value to be had from that. The problem is ultimately that the organization decides to draw arbitrary lines in the sand and often ends up looking like a crazy penny and pound once its decision-making process is analyzed. There isn’t another big market competitor in the league who would have acted this way if faced with the exact situation.

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Teams with small bonus pools are still able to select and sign good players every year in the draft, it’s just harder to accomplish. The White Sox went that route, and while it could have been easier, the approach to last year’s draft seems like an apt predictor of what’s to come.

The White Sox spent $6,942,000 against their bonus pool in the 2021 draft. Under Mike Shirley for the past two years, and his predecessor Nick Hostetler in previous seasons, the club has often overshot its pool. $6,618,600 was the allocated pool space the organization was entitled to and they quickly used it all plus the maximum overrun penalty before the draft picks were removed.

Clubs are allowed to spend up to 5% on their pool while paying a 75% overage fee on the additional amount spent. Players chosen in the first 10 rounds count towards a club’s bonus pool. Players taken from the 11th to the 20th round do not count in the pool unless the bonus exceeds $125,000, and only the excess will count in the pool. The White Sox did a solid job adding talented players to their farm system on Day 3.

2022 White Sox draft pick

  • 1st round #26: $2,788.00
  • 2nd round #62: $1,158,600
  • 3rd round #101: $606,300
  • 4th round #131: $452,700
  • 5th round #161: $337,400
  • 6th round #191: $261,600
  • 7th round #221: $205,600
  • 8th round #251: $171,700
  • 9th round #281: $157,700
  • 10th round: #311: $149,500

Taking money from last-round picks in order to pay players second-to-fourth-round over-pitch bonuses has become a trend for the White Sox in recent years. They have also started integrating more prep players into the organization and both trends will likely continue into 2022 one way or another.

Indiana prep shortstop Colson Montgomery became the first high school player selected in the first round by the organization since Courtney Hawkins was released from a Texas high school in 2012. The White Sox often pay slot value for their first rounds and athlete multisport did it when inking for $3,027,000. The White Sox also employed a strategy that allows them to add advantages at the top of the draft while severely reducing sub-slot bonuses throughout Day 2 (Rounds 5-10).

The club went too far in the second, third and fifth rounds to sign Arizona prep infielder Wes Kath, Maryland right-hander Sean Burke and Nevada prep right-hander Tanner McDougal. The White Sox have continued to add college players throughout, and a few of those players drafted from the sixth to the 20th rounds have slipped into the top-30 lists over the past year. A similar approach should be expected once the 2022 project launches in July and the strategy is familiar to the current team of decision makers.

There are still two months until the draft kicks off on July 17 from Los Angeles, but the White Sox could choose to go in several directions. In the first round in particular, teams always claim to take the best player available, but bonus pools complicate that process in baseball. The goal of the draft is to accumulate as many talents as possible in the bonus pool.

The White Sox can do a solid job on draft weekend and any demographic is likely on the table in the first round. Throwing is always an organizational need and the club might also need help at the catcher level. Doubling the number of players in the readiness position could again be an option with names like Florida’s Roman Anthony and North Carolina’s Ryan Clifford as players to watch early on.

On the side of the preparation pitchers, there will be a number of players available. The White Sox haven’t selected a first-round high school pitcher since Kris Honel in 2001, but they’ve added a plethora of prep weapons in subsequent rounds in recent years. If he were to be available somehow, Indiana prep right-hander Andrew Dutkanych would likely be of interest to Indiana native and director of scouting Mike Shirley.

Building on the reliable elder, the college pitching class is ravaged by injuries, but deals could be made with players in the 25-50 range who could have been top-20 picks if not for the injuries. During the rebuild, the club’s early players focused on college position players, and the organization could pick up that path again with someone like Tennessee center back Drew Gilbert.

The White Sox will have 20 picks in July and Mike Shirley and his team will try to continue replenishing the talent that will be needed for this farming system to continue producing talent. Although the bonus pool is small, it is enough to add quality players. It could have been easier though, and the White Sox make it harder than it needs to be a lot more often than it should.

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