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Draft picks, slotting, and connecting the dots

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There was an article last month about the Washington Nationals taking a hard line on signing bonus slotting for draftees:

With just more than a month to go before the Aug. 15 deadline, the Nationals still do not have any of their first five picks from the June draft in the fold. And according to a source close to one of those picks, the team could have trouble signing several of them.

The source said the Nationals front office has been given a directive by ownership not to give any of the picks a larger signing bonus than MLB's slot system recommends. All of those picks are believed to be looking for above-slot signing bonuses.

"I spoke with [scouting director] Dana Brown recently, and he sounded absolutely devastated," the source said. "I'm actually kind of stunned they're doing this."

According to the source, the team is prepared to take "a hard line" with first-rounder Aaron Crow. "It's 'If he doesn't want to play for this, we'll take the 10th pick next year,'" the source said, referring to the compensatory selection Washington would get if it did not sign Crow, who was taken ninth in this spring's draft.

Which I thought about when I read this story today:

Major League Baseball investigators are looking into accusations that several New York Yankees prospects from the Dominican Republic were forced to kick back portions of their signing bonuses to one or more team employees, several sources told ESPN.

The revelation is one of several developments in an ongoing investigation of a financial scandal involving the signing of players from the Dominican Republic. Last week, the Red Sox's Dominican scouting supervisor, Pablo Lantigua, was fired after MLB investigators confronted him about allegedly skimming signing bonuses, according to an MLB source. Sources also told ESPN that the investigation is expected to implicate roughly 20 people on "a handful" of teams before it is complete. Investigators also have expanded their probe into Venezuela, where many major league clubs have player academies. "Things are coming to a head," one source familiar with MLB's investigation said.

* * *

One source briefed on MLB investigators' findings said he believed "less than a half-dozen" teams would be implicated, including the Yankees, Red Sox, Nationals and White Sox.

The 20 or so employees, based in both the United States and the Dominican Republic, either received money or were aware of others who did, the source said. Sources said FBI agents have not traveled to the Dominican, and contrary to media reports, have limited their probe thus far to allegations surrounding fired White Sox official David Wilder, Washington Nationals general manager Jim Bowden and Nationals special assistant Jose Rijo.

I can't imagine much, if anything, is going to happen to the ChiSox organization, since the main guy in their organization involved with the scandal is cooperating with the FBI, and (more importantly) Jerry Reinsdorf is one of Bud Selig's top stooges among the MLB owners.

But the Nats?  They are a little different.  The Nationals are a new ownership group, and got a reputation last year for busting slotting on signing bonuses (despite the fact that, other than Jake McGeary, they didn't really go too overboard in above-slot bonuses).

Since the first article came out, they've signed one guy, their 2nd rounder, to a $1.1 million bonus, but he's a two-sport athlete, and the bonus is being spread out over 5 years, a situation which MLB is apparently more lenient about when it comes to bonuses.  The other guys from the first 5 rounds remain unsigned.

And one suspects the ongoing investigation implicating the Nats might have something to do with this sudden shift in philosophy.  People ask, "Who cares if MLB gets angry with a team for going above slot?  What can Bud Selig do, other than not give that team an All Star Game?"

But this is an area where Selig has a great deal of leeway in deciding whether, and how, to punish a team.  And this is a time when the organization may feel it needs Selig's goodwill to avoid harsher punishments for its malfeasance in its Latin America signings, and thus is refusing to go above slot.