The devilish little fan version of myself masquerading as a Blue Jay perched on my shoulder tells me (chirps to me?) that I should be delighted by the new Blue Jays draft strategy. Has Anthopolous found a new market inefficiency ? Is drafting college seniors and then paying them a fraction of what MLB says they should get for their draft slot--in order to conjure enticingly over-slot offers for high-upside high school seniors--not exactly the sort of wizardry a fan should celebrate? Well, yes... and no.
This is why the fan on my shoulder has a distinctly satanic quality: over and over again, fandom produces and legitimises behaviour that would (I hope) otherwise be viewed as unethical. In this case, as it so often does, the fan lens conveniently transforms human, labouring athletes into objects that can be manipulated by a team towards the goal of winning. College seniors who want to play professional baseball have no choice when confronted by a low-ball offer but to accept it (unlike high school players or college juniors, who may reject the offer and re-enter the draft in a subsequent year). This means that they will labour for the team--risking debilitating injury--for an even lower wage than they previously would have received. These are precisely the sort of professional athletes who put the lie to the notion that athletes should not be seen as exploited given their multi-million dollar wages. Most professional athletes will have careers, like these college seniors, which pay little and leave them with damaged bodies.
In a sense, the Blue Jays have found a way to twist a system engineered to improve equity between teams of varying market sizes (previously, big market team paid big bucks to sign high-upside players with later draft picks who fell to them because poorer teams feared being unable to sign those players) into one that is even more inequitable for the players themselves. Top prospects will continue to reap huge signing bonuses, only now, this money will come from the pockets of other players instead of the coffers of mega-corporations.
Clearly, this is a structural problem with the MLB slotting system more than an insidious product of Anthopolous' imagination. Nevertheless, as a human agent with considerable power, the Blue Jays GM has the ability to treat these young men right. That he won't is little cause for celebration.