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The Miami Marlins' Handling of Cody Gunter Shows Organization's Thrifty Drafting Ways

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It's not often that decisions that the Miami Marlins' front office makes angers me. However, the Marlins handled the 2012 Amateur Draft poorly and it was frustrating to watch how they negotiated with players. Cody Gunter, the Marlins 19th round pick, was looking for $200,000 coming into the draft. The Marlins could have given him more than twice that without having a penalty under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, but instead they decided to stay under their bonus pool allotment and not sign Gunter. Miami's handling of Cody Gunter in the 2012 Amateur draft was a symbol of their lack of commitment to rebuilding the team through the draft.

In the days before the MLB Draft, the Washington Nationals Assistant General Manager of Player Personnel Mike Clark told the Washington Post, "This will be the first year that we’re going to actually have a calculator." I feel like this was the way many teams looked at the new CBA and how it applied to the 2012 Amateur Draft.

The new rules stated that each team would have a bonus pool which they could spend on the draft and that there would be penalties for exceeding the amount of allotted money. Ten teams exceeded their bonus pool in 2012. In fact, Toronto finished almost one half of a million dollars over their cap. The penalty for exceeding the cap by 5 percent is a 75% tax.

Miami entered the draft with a $4,935,100 bonus pool. They have gained somewhat of a reputation for being very firm with how much they will give players and this year was no different. For a while, it seemed as if Miami was not going to be able to come to terms with their #1 overall pick, Andrew Heaney. However, the Marlins finished the draft $4,860,700, which was $74,400 under their pool.

Rumors started circling before the draft that Cody Gunter, a third base / outfield prospect from Flower Mound HS in Texas, was looking for a $200,000 bonus. Gunter stands 6'3'' and weighs roughly 200 pounds. During his senior season at Flower Mound, Gunter had a 1.28 ERA in thirteen starts and he hit .411/.550/.778. He only throws in the mid 80's, so outfield or third base is where his future as a professional appears to be.

According to Perfect Game, Gunter has soft hands, a quick release, very good arm strength, and good fundamental footwork. They gave him a 9.0 on their grading scale out of ten.

I had heard about Gunter coming into the draft and as with most high school outfielders from Texas, I thought he was going to make a decent pro prospect. However, what I did not factor in to his draft potential was the new CBA rules. In previous years, some team would have taken Gunter in the top fifteen rounds and given him the $200K he was looking for. However, in 2012, Gunter slid all the way to the nineteenth round, where the Marlins selected him with the 587th pick in the draft.

Looking at the Marlins' draft picks from round ten to round twenty, I am not sure they chose a player who has more potential than Cody Gunter. If the Marlins gave Gunter the $200,000 he was looking for, then Miami's final total money spent on bonuses would have been $5,060,700. That would exceed their pool by roughly $125,000. In order to receive a penalty for signing Gunter, Miami would have to give him a bonus of $421,155.

What I am saying is that the Marlins could have giving Gunter what he wanted and not received a penalty, but instead they decided to stay under the bonus pool. By doing this, Miami missed out on the chance to add a talented prospect to their system. Gunter will head off to Grayson CC, a community college which has graduated fifty-four players drafted, including John Lackey and Andy LaRoche

One thing that could change my whole argument could be if part of this was Gunter's fault. Maybe he got in trouble before the draft and the Marlins didn't want to have to deal with the consequences. Or maybe Gunter got bad career advice and no longer wanted just $200K. However, I suspect that the Marlins were watching their money very closely and perhaps ownership gave the front office a strict warning about staying under the cap. If this is the case, the Marlins need to readjust their priorities and find new management.

It's pretty easy to say that the Marlins have been a lot more committed to drafting talented players in the last few years than they were before. Christian Yelich, Jose Fernandez, Adam Conley, and others have all made the Marlins' front office look pretty outstanding. However, I believe that more of the credit is due to the talent evaluators that went out and scouted those players instead of the front office. The Marlins are still not spending money like other teams internationally, and I believe they are not as committed to rebuilding through the draft as other teams.

This is not about Cody Gunter. Who knows, maybe Gunter would have never gotten out of the GCL if he did not sign. Prominent major leaguers such as Placido Polanco, Steve Lombardozzi, and Jason Motte were all nineteenth round picks. However, the Marlins have only had one player (Mike Duvall) ever reach the majors. The main reason I have a problem with the Marlins not giving Cody Gunter $200K is because it symbolizes their refusal to commit to building a baseball team in other ways than free agency. Also, it shows that perhaps the owners were stingy in telling the front office how they could spend money in the draft.