Then I read that the imposition of that deadline was a result in the change to the Basic Agreement during the last labor go-around that was, theoretically anyway, designed to help the teams pressure the players:
When the summary information of Major League Baseball's new basic agreement was sent out to the individual teams last October, one of the subjects covered was the "Rule 4 Draft." . . . the league's general managers and assistant general managers were informed in a memorandum that "several changes were made to the Rule 4 Draft that will increase the Clubs' leverage in negotiations with Draft selections."
In the past those will-I-go-to-college-or-not players were allowed to twist in the wind for as long as a year. While many were ultimately lost to college, wasn't the risk of not signing a big one? After all, if they didn't sign, couldn't they be idled for a long time while they dickered with management, all while watching their friends and colleagues work their way towards the majors? Now the teams seem to be under the gun far more in that, with the deadline, players can be assured of enrolling or re-enrolling in classes in the August right after the draft, and will be on a baseball diamond just after the first of the year, unchanged from their previous schedule.
Maybe this year was a unique situation, but I'm struck by the notion that if keeping draftee contracts low was the goal, MLB didn't exactly think their cunning plan all the way through.