Supplemental Draft Picks had Tremendous Leverage

As Supplemental Draft signings are starting to trickle out (Mooneyham to Austin, James to LA) it’s worth remembering the leverage they had in negations. 

The MLR remains a league with a shoestring budget. It’s been widely assumed that the cap is staying flat at $500,000 with a max salary at $45,000. With most rosters set or only adding depth/fringe players, the Supplemental Draft injected a relatively high level of talent into the available player pool. With most teams likely at or near the cap, the amount of leverage drafted players held was stunning. 

Remember the draft rules. Any player drafted would be considered domestic for roster construction purposes, allowing any team to draft them. 

Then, consider the cap implications. MLR declared that each team would have their cap raised by the amount of the Draftee’s salary, essentially removing their salary from the cap altogether. 

Add all that to the fact that these were talented players. They were coming off an MLR roster, after all. Sure, there’s an economic argument that when the job supply decreases some players could get squeezed out. But MLR ensured they’d be able to be signed without squeezing the current roster of any team. (Playing time, however, remains a scarce commodity.)

With all that considered, it’s reasonable that any player drafted would push for a high salary. Theoretically, they could walk in and request the max. At that point, the ball is in the team’s court, and free cash flow is the only real restraint. After all, there almost no chance that a comparable player would be available at this point in the offseason. 

It is worth mentioning that scarcity goes both ways. If the drafting team is the only one able sign the player without affecting the cap, the next best option for the player will be significantly worse. Up to this point, the MLR has treated players as well as they can given their financial limitations. It would be interesting to see if any players signed surprisingly large deals. 

But we’ll likely never know. 

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