- Jerry Crasnick, ESPN.com MLB Sr. Writer
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Major League Baseball has fined the Chicago Cubs an undisclosed amount for rules violations in the June first-year player draft, and is investigating whether further discipline might be warranted, sources told ESPN.com.
A baseball source said the Cubs broke a rule requiring clubs to report signing agreements to the MLB central office. The Cubs also violated a rule requiring approved agreements to be in place before signed draft picks take the field, the source said.
The Cubs have butted heads with the commissioner's office several times in recent years for exceeding the recommended bonuses under baseball's "slotting" system. This year, Chicago signed California high school infielder Matt Cerda, the 131st overall pick, to a $500,000 bonus, according to Baseball America.
Cerda's bonus was more than twice what the 131st pick received in 2007, and exceeded the reported $385,000 bonus the Cubs gave their latest third-round choice, Kent State pitcher Chris Carpenter.
But the slotting recommendations only serve as guidelines -- not hard-and-fast rules -- and a baseball official said the Cubs' punishment was unrelated to the size of bonus payments.
"This was not a slotting issue," the official said.
News of the Cubs' punishment comes as MLB continues to examine whether the draft is serving its purpose as a way to level the competitive playing field. Commissioner Bud Selig fielded several draft-related questions during a media question-and-answer session at the All-Star Game last week.
In the midst of a scandal involving scouts from multiple teams and other club officials "skimming" bonuses from Latin-American players, Selig said MLB continues to look into the possibility of a worldwide draft. The draft is currently confined to the United States, Canada and Puerto Rico.
"I don't think it's any secret that support for a worldwide draft is growing amongst all baseball people," Selig said. "I've had a lot of people, including a significant number of general managers, say to me in the last couple of months that they wish we had a worldwide draft. I think that's something we will discuss in the future."
Baseball's slotting system has been criticized because Boston, Detroit, the New York Yankees and other affluent clubs have been more inclined to exceed MLB's recommended bonus guidelines in an effort to stockpile better talent in the draft.
But Selig pointed out that several small-market clubs have built effectively through the draft in recent years to become contenders. Tampa Bay, Minnesota and Milwaukee are three prominent examples.
"In 1965, when they went to the draft, there was a reason," Selig said. "The draft was meant to produce more competitive balance and parity. I think you've seen a remarkable number of cases where it's worked."
Jerry Crasnick covers baseball for ESPN.com.