(GAME DATE — Oct. 27, 2020) — The offseason is upon us and before the arbitration hearings and free agency filings occur, the league’s four teams on the contraction chopping block will be folded and their players sent to free agency.
But, not before the remaining 16 teams have had an opportunity to pick through their rosters and select a number of players to take over their contracts or minor league rights.
Known as a “contraction draft”, this 6-round draft aims to redistribute the top talent from Dallas, Detroit, Norfolk and Pittsburgh – the four folding teams – in a fair manner back into the remaining teams. If all of the players had simply gone to free agency, then the competitive balance would remain with whichever teams happen to have the greatest available budget, funding and roster space, which would heavily favor teams that had done well and made the playoffs.
Instead, the teams that need the most help, based on their poor performance during the season, will have first opportunity to select from the available talent, similar to a regular amateur or Rule 5 draft. The difference here is that six of the remaining teams which are under league management will select after all of the teams with actual general managers.
The order for the contraction draft is:
- Montreal Metros (Danny D)
- Milwaukee Hops (Josh C)
- Ohio Oxen (Dylan M)
- Miami Storm (Troy D)
- Washington Freedom (Alex S)
- Nevada Speeders (Scott Dummler)
- Chicago Pit Bulls (Scott Davis)
- Toronto Nomads (Ray Morrell)
- Minneapolis Ravens (Jason)
- St. Petersburgh Admirals (Brandon P)
- Seattle Salts (league)
- Calgary Inferno (league)
- California Tidals (league)
- New York Dragons (league)
- Arizona Cowboys (league)
- Boston Brawlers (league)
The rankings were based on the teams with the weakest “Elo” after the end of the regular season selecting first. Elo is a points-based power ranking system which is cumulative, meaning it carries over from season to season.
Although the Chicago Pit Bulls won the Bull Cup, they had only barely qualified for the playoffs, taking the second LL wild card on the last day of the season, resulting in a poor ranking and a 7th overall draft selection.
Several veteran players are rumored to be among the top draft choice predictions, including perennial hit machine Earl MacPherson (Norfolk), who carries a $13 million annual bill for the next four years, Danny Sanchez (Norfolk), one of the $21 million level players, Payton Bint (Detroit), and many more.
The level of prospect talent among the four organizations being folded is impressive as well. The Dallas Deputies had the top minor league system at the end of the season, and CF Georges Henri is their top ranked prospect. The AA-level 21-year-old is currently ranked by OSA as the 5th overall prospect in baseball. LF John Heart, who had been in rookie ball just 2 seasons ago, is the #6 prospect, and the team’s second top guy. He just made the big league roster this season. Other top Dallas prospects include pitchers Matt Horsley and Jonathan Davis.
The Pittsburgh Iron Pigs had been improving their system as well recently, and 13th ranked pitcher Tommy Duff is expected to attract attention in the contraction draft. Norfolk’s system ranked 11th in the league, and their top guy, LF Jimmy Tosnia, was ranked #24 in baseball by the OSA. He finished 2020 in short season A ball, hitting .296 and raking 13 homers.
Even the Detroit Motorheads, whose minor league system was only ranked 16th in the league, feature at least one highly attractive prospect in their farm system. Antonio Cueneca has been rated a high-control groundball lefty pitcher from Mexico, with future starting rotation talent. He is currently ranked #41 by OSA, but could get a look in the later draft rounds.
After the conclusion of the draft, any unselected players will be released to free agency regardless of their current contracts. Those players will then be available on the open market should teams wish to have another look at them.
The league has promised to offer subsidies to help balance their 2021 budgets in order to ensure the top paid veterans available in the draft get a solid look, but teams still have to make selections wisely as players whose contracts expire before 2021, or who have options, will not have those contracts changed before free agency filing.