I’ve been writing a lot about the draft this year, but with the new rules and the Cardinals’ many picks, this has been a fascinating year with plenty of stories to write about. One that keeps jumping to the forefront again and again is James Ramsey. This is nothing against James Ramey the player (who will start in High-A Palm Beach this week) who can hit and will have to fight to stay in centerfield, but Ramsey the draft pick and the bonus that he received that was a massive overpay by the Cardinals. After the jump is the continuation of my rant/examination.
No clue. Huge overpay. RT @B_Vorhies: Why did the Cardinals sign Ramsey for that much? Did they forget to apply Econ principles to seniors?
James Ramsey was a college senior with zero leverage. He was already 22 years old and was picked considerably ahead of where everyone thought he was going to be picked. The Cardinals seemingly had all of the leverage as they basically gifted James Ramsey the right to be a 1st round pick. “Congratulations, kid. You’ll have ‘1st rounder’ next to your name your whole life.” And as a result of that magnanimous gesture by the Cardinals, we all assumed Ramsey would sign for a below slot deal. Because, what are his options? He can’t go back to school and improve his draft stock. He could go to the Independent leagues for a year, but then he would return to the draft as a 23.5 year old with even less leverage and even less chance of a big time bonus. The Cardinals held all of the cards, or so we thought.
And you can fool me on a lot of things, but there is no way the Cardinals did not know James Ramsey’s “number” (the amount of bonus money required to get him to sign) before picking him. Almost every team knows the number of the player they are picking before they make the pick. There are certainly exceptions, but especially with the new draft rules, you have to know how each player fits in the puzzle that is your draft allocation pool. If you don’t know, then you are risking disaster.
If going into the draft, James Ramsey’s number was $1.6 million that in itself is insane. He was valued (as an example) by Baseball America as the 51st prospect. The 51st pick had a draft pool allotment of $984,700. So, if the Cardinals called before picking Ramsey and his camp said “We want $1.6 million, if you pick Ramsey in the supplement round, you’ll have to go over slot.” they should have only heard the dial tone after that. If Ramsey’s camp thought that he was going to get close to $1.6 million before the draft, someone would have to have a different idea of valuation than the rest of the baseball community.
Per Keith Law, “the senior discount has been 30% for at least a decade.”
That would have put Ramsey’s potential signing bonus at $1.2 million and some change at 23 overall and that would have saved the Cardinals an extra $400,000 to try to get Trey Williams for $500,000. $1.2 million would have been a tidy sum for Ramsey and better than the less than a million he would have taken down the line in the draft.
Let’s go to a quote quickly from ESPN’s “Nole Nation” from Ramsey himself:
“My representation has been great, and on the other side of the coin, the Cardinals, of all the teams, have definitely treated me fairly based on my ability as a player,” he said. “They didn’t treat me fairly because of the year in school I am or the ramifications of being a college player vs. a high school player. They treated me very fairly based on my abilities. That’s all I can ask for, and I’ve been very pleased.”
Since I love to parse quotes, let’s try this one on for size “…the Cardinals, of all the teams…” – this implies to me that Ramsey (obviously) had spoken to multiple teams who had gauged the number it would have taken to sign him. That is not uncommon. If you look at how Ramsey describes his treatment above, that implies that the Cardinals liked him more than any other team and simply ignored any and all advantages and leverage they would have had in signing Ramsey and gave him a $1.6 mil bonus “based on my abilities”. The other teams apparently were not looking at his abilities but at his age and college class. They were looking at the fact that he was a college senior and he would sign for considerably less because he had no leverage. The Cardinals were offering WAY more than any other team.
The way Ramsey describes the negotiation is more like charity than an actual business contract discussion. Ramsey was represented by CSE (which doesn’t appear to stand for anything) and was their only client in the first and supplemental rounds. They have major league clients like Mitchell Boggs, Mark DeRosa and Gerald Laird. This agency are not Boras or CAA or any of the major players and all of their major leaguers are of similar quality, so it is not like they have a history of demanding the moon for their top players.
So, there are a couple of things that could have happened here.
1 – The Cardinals liked James Ramsey a million dollars more than any other team in baseball. If this is true, it is just terrible business.
2 – Ramsey and CSE pulled a fast one on the Cardinals giving them one number around draft time and then holding the Cardinals hostage with a much higher number when it came around to the actual negotiations.
3 – The Cardinals did not get a number from Ramsey, instead assuming they could overdraft him and then sign him for an under slot deal. This is again terrible business.
4 – CSE and the Ramsey camp held the Cardinals draft allocation pool hostage and pulled the leverage to their size, threatening to not sign and the Cardinals would lose the right to use their $1.775 million on the draft this year, instead pushing it to next year.
With regards to number 1, this is terrible business, because if you saw something like this at an auction (which the draft is not, but bear with me.) The bidding doesn’t go something like this:
“Two hundred dollars”
“Three hundred dollars”
“ONE POINT SIX MILLION DOLLARS!”
That’s not how it works unless you are insane, billionaire who values that specific item way more than the rest of the world. The Cardinals had to know (had to!) what Ramsey was expected to happen going into the draft and where his price was with regards to where he thought he was going to get picked. If they valued Ramsey $600,000 dollars more than any other team they are throwing that money away because they could have had the same player for a much lower rate.
With regards to number 4 (which might go hand in hand with number 2) if I were the Cardinals (which I am most certainly am not) – I would have called the bluff and sent Ramsey to the Independent Leagues and gotten the 23rd overall selection in next year’s draft that is supposed to have more talent.
It is possible that Ramsey’s camp internally change their mind about what bonus they wanted after seeing how high Ramsey was selected. But, that would mean the Cardinals did not get their word on a verbal agreement before making the draft pick. (I understand this is against the rules, but every team does it. How do you think they logistically can negotiate and sign all those players within days of the draft?) Either way, someone is in the wrong there.
I would just like to say for the record this doesn’t mean I don’t still think Ramsey is a very good prospect. I still like him as a player, and I think he could be something very intriguing in professional ball. But his price tag was one of the best things about him. And when you take that away, I just don’t see how he belongs as the 23rd pick in the draft.
Not only did the Cardinals overdraft Ramsey, they overpaid him as well. They made one bad choice and tried to cover it by making another bad choice. Didn’t your parents tell you that two wrongs don’t make a right? If Ramsey makes the majors and becomes a good player, this still will not have been a good decision.
As Aaron says, they took the best thing about Ramsey as a draft pick and completely removed it.
Additionally, the Cardinals need to identify what made them lose their leverage so badly and eliminate that issue going forward, because if they continue to overpay relative to the market, it is going to be a long and expensive road ahead for the franchise.