How two MLB teams put themselves at a disadvantage with cost-cutting moves ahead of 2020 draft

Major League Baseball and the MLB Players Association may be in their fourth week of negotiations concerning a potential modified season in light of COVID-19, but that hasn’t stopped teams from harming themselves with unnecessary cost-cutting measures.

The worst two recent offenders have been the Los Angeles Angels and the Oakland Athletics, each of whom chose to expose a vulnerable group of employees. The Angels furloughed most of their scouting department heading into June and the amateur draft, while the A’s announced they would no longer pay their minor-league players a weekly $400 stipend. Even during the best of times, the average scout is doing well to make more than $60,000 per year while the average minor-league player is living below the poverty line. The savings, then, are trifling for Arte Moreno and John Fisher, the two team owners, each of whom has an estimated net worth exceeding $2 billion.

The Angels’ and Athletics’ acts are shameful from moral and ethical perspectives. There is another consideration to take into account, and it’s one that more than a handful of league insiders have expressed to CBS Sports: the belief that both teams’ behavior will result in an obvious and immediate competitive disadvantage. 

For starters, Angels scouting director Matt Swanson will have to draft without contact with his area scouts who have the most experience with the players in question. Swanson will be able to consult with his cross-checkers, though their enthusiasm could be limited because of the knowledge that they too will be furloughed after the draft. As a veteran member of another team’s scouting department asked CBS Sports, “How are the cross-checkers supposed to care [about the draft] when they’re gone the next day?”

The odd structure of this year’s draft means teams will be more reliant than normal on wooing undrafted free agents. The Angels and Athletics will each suffer in that regard. The Angels won’t be able to benefit from the relationships formed by their scouts. The Athletics are in an even worse spot: They’ll be competing with teams who can offer the same amount of money, and who, almost by default, are viewed as treating their players better.

A similar phenomena could extend beyond the draft and to non-playing personnel. Most scouts and minor-league veterans work on year-to-year arrangements, and aren’t afforded the luxury of certain long-term employment. Yet those individuals with options will have to ask themselves: Why willingly join an organization that deemed their peers inessential? 

Of course, there are only so many scouting posts and so many roster spots. Someone will take the jobs with the Angels and with the Athletics, that much is certain. But those who believe in karma should be pleased to learn that both teams are more likely than not to experience negative ramifications, now and later, stemming from their cheap ways.

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