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August 13, 2010

Future Shock

Draft Deadline Preview

by Kevin Goldstein

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The signing deadline is normally August 15, but with that falling on a Sunday this year, it's been moved back 24 hours, leaving teams and agents the entire day Monday to work out their deals before the clock strikes midnight. While less than half of this year's first-round picks have officially come to terms... let's address that for one moment. There are plenty of deals that have already been done, and have been done for days if not weeks, yet MLB's myopic desire to control bonuses means that kids can't go out and play ball yet. Nonetheless, the overwhelming majority of those that are unsigned will be signed before the deadline, but that doesn't mean we won't have plenty of drama over the next 72 hours. Here are three first-round stories I'll be paying the most attention to this weekend, in order of their draft selection.

Washington Nationals: Bryce Harper, OF, College of Southern Nevada
Harper's college coach, who in many ways has doubled as the first overall pick's PR agent at times, has entered the fray of late to let everyone know that Haprer wants to play. However, it's not about his coach or anything Harper posted on Facebook over the past few weeks, it's all about the green. Everyone thinks he will sign, it's just a question of how much money he'll get at this point. A quick poll of industry sources found wildly varying predictions ranging from $8 million to $16 million, with the only universal belief being that he will definitely come to terms. Personally, and I know this puts me in the minority, I'm betting the over. I've written this before, but even Strasburg's record shattering total package of $15.1 million is an industry-relative bargain, and after covering Scott Boras signings for nearly a decade, I've never seen him exhibit a reverse gear. Boras has made no secret of his feelings surrounding Aroldis Chapman's $30.25 million contract and what it means for players subject to the draft.

Arizona Diamondbacks: Barrett Loux, RHP, Texas A&M
The sixth overall pick has become the draft's most interesting story, but also potentially the saddest. First-round picks often get their team physicals well before agreeing to terms, as all contracts are subject to such an examination, and there is no time to conduct it when negotiations go to the wire. When the Diamondbacks' doctors checked out Loux, they found elbow and shoulder issues, including some fraying in his rotator cuff, and have all but cut off negotiations. Loux's camp insists he's healthy, and proved so by having him pitch some games in the Cape Cod League, but the physical doesn't say he's unable to perform now, as much as it says he won't be able to in the future. Arizona is not necessarily the bad guy here. The Diamondbacks have no rule-based or legal obligation to make Loux an offer other than the standard contract within seven days of his selection. The problem now is that Arizona doesn't want Loux, and if he doesn't sign, he has to sit out a year until the next draft. That's just not fair to the player here. This is not an Aaron Crow situation, where the pick isn't getting the well-over-slot money he desires and taking his chances; Loux wants to play, and likely won't even get an opportunity from Arizona. This has the potential for a legal battle, with Loux and his representatives going to court in order to make their client a free agent under the theory that Loux has been subjected to the draft, yet not given the opportunity to sign, so he should not be penalized. Again, no bad guys here, just a victim, and baseball should hopefully do the right thing, although when it comes to the draft, it rarely does. A similar occurrence almost took place in the summer of 2008, when Padres doctors found hip issues in first-round pick Allan Dykstra. Acting as Dykstra's advisor, Boras brought up the possibility of legal action before San Diego finally gave in and signed him for $1.15 million, the second-lowest bonus of that year's first round. Those events left us with history, but no precedent.

Los Angeles Dodgers: Zach Lee, RHP, McKinny HS (TX)
When the Dodgers selected Lee with the 28th overall pick, the assumptions were immediate. With the Dodgers' current financial situation and the McCourt divorce leaving them cash-strapped, this was a punted pick that they would gladly give up for the opportunity to select 29th overall in 2011, when the current imbroglio will hopefully be in the rear-view mirror. That remains the assumption to this day, as Lee told anyone who'd listen this spring that he had every intention of playing both football (he was one of the top high school quarterbacks in the county) and baseball at LSU this fall... unless somebody would offer him something in the $3-plus million range. The Dodgers haven't done that. In fact, according to Lee, they've had no discussions at all, but that's not the rarest thing with days to go before a deadline. The Dodgers said all the right things at the time of the selection, but have made few comments since. Most people see a deal as having a zero percent chance of happening, and it's a no-brainer to bet against it, but the chances are more than zero here, maybe more like 10-to-1.

Kevin Goldstein is an author of Baseball Prospectus. 
Click here to see Kevin's other articles. You can contact Kevin by clicking here

28 comments have been left for this article. (Click to hide comments)

BP Comment Quick Links

cooper7d7

Re: Lee - LAD - Is the team in such dire financial conditions that they can't scrape together $600K [$3M over 5 years due to football scholarship] this year?

Aug 13, 2010 06:19 AM
rating: 0
 
Sparky's Pitch Fork

Odds the Red Birds sign Austin Wilson?

Aug 13, 2010 06:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

1.43%.

Aug 13, 2010 10:11 AM
 
Sparky's Pitch Fork

I like the odds.

Aug 13, 2010 10:44 AM
rating: 0
 
Jeff Reese

You mentioned on twitter that Kaleb Cowart was upgraded to a VERY tough sign. Does that mean he's seeking more than the reported $3M and that you expect him to attend Florida St?

Aug 13, 2010 08:56 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

There's been some $3.5 rumors; but it's only Friday, and I bet he can't walk away from three in the end.

Aug 13, 2010 10:12 AM
 
coachadams5

If the DBacks offer Loux something ridiculously low for a first-rounder ($100K) and Loux declines, what recourse does he have? They made an offer, he declines, end of negotiations. DBacks get two high picks next year and hopefully does something with them. Or if he signs, they get a first-round pick for virtually nothing and can potentially plow that back into an overslot bonus next year. Given that Byrnes messed up (and was fired because of it), I don't see the downside here. What's done is done - this makes the best of it.

Aug 13, 2010 10:53 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

There is no downside for Arizona, and I never blamed Arizona in the piece. The issue is what's fair to Loux.

Aug 13, 2010 11:33 AM
 
coachadams5

KG- I wasn't accusing you of blaming Arizona - I was just offering what seems to be a reasonable solution for AZ that 1) avoids legal action, ensures them of getting a player wayyy below slot or 3) gets them a high pick next year. By offering a token sum, they seemingly make the most out of a bad situation. What's fair to Loux is irrelvant - the draft is inherently unfair...to every player. There is no competition. You negotiate with one team and if you don't like their offer, you don't sign. And if you don't sign, you risk being Matt Harrington. There's no recourse for the player.

Aug 13, 2010 14:24 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Ah. Let me be clear then, I think the legal action could be vs. MLB, as it's their rules that are putting Loux in this situation.

Aug 13, 2010 14:32 PM
 
coachadams5

Now that will be interesting...and entertaining. Boras is going to leverage the Aroldis Chapman deal against the Nationals as being an example of what someone would pay in a competitive open market for the Harper deal. Could also work for the Loux representatives.

Aug 13, 2010 15:01 PM
rating: 0
 
horn75

That was my thought, too. Are the Diamondbacks just afraid that he would accept?

Aug 13, 2010 11:33 AM
rating: 0
 
elm
(41)

Does MLB hold up all above slot signing, or only those in the first few rounds? In other words, the guys who get drafted in the teens and twenties for signability reasons, are some those deals already done and just waiting announcement?

Aug 13, 2010 11:47 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Many of them are done. MLB only holds back over-slot deal, and then, only WAY over slot deals as we get to the deadline. There is no slot after the fifth round, there's just a 'maximum recommendation' of $150K.

Aug 13, 2010 11:55 AM
 
Matt Kory

Kevin, do you think Ranaudo signs with Boston?

Aug 13, 2010 12:37 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

I actually think that one has been done (but not allowed to be announced) for a bit.

Aug 13, 2010 14:33 PM
 
TGisriel

What are the odds Manny Machado sign with the Orioles?

Aug 13, 2010 13:40 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Very close to 100%.

Aug 13, 2010 14:33 PM
 
Matthew Avery

I can't wait for the new CBA to address all of this and fix the MLB draft to something coherent and fair for all parties. I mean, that's what's going to happen, right?

Aug 13, 2010 15:00 PM
rating: 2
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Oh Matthew, you make me giggle. I mean it COULD happen, but what's going on right now is the result of many attempts to 'fix' the draft.

Aug 13, 2010 16:10 PM
 
Jeff Reese

Yep, Bud is going to institute hard slotting, and the biggest winners will be the owners and college baseball. It certainly won't be the fans.

Aug 13, 2010 18:59 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

If that happens, the players are pretty big losers as well.

Aug 14, 2010 09:37 AM
 
jake726

I'm not sure anyone besides college baseball and football wins in this case. The owners get something they think they want, but will the talent drain resulting from hard slotting diminishing the attractiveness of baseball, particularly for multi-sport athletes, actually hurt the sport more than the few million dollars per year of savings will help teams? Allowing draft picks to be traded is a much better solution to, at least some of, the problems inherent in the current draft system.

I think it likely would.

Aug 15, 2010 13:03 PM
rating: 1
 
mbk311

Nick Castellanos? Actually, Chance Ruffin and Smyly too...

Aug 13, 2010 17:33 PM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

Expect Castellanos to sing, and based on some of the whispers out there, it's a HUGE number. I'm shocked Ruffin hasn't signed yet.

Aug 14, 2010 09:37 AM
 
Benjamin Harris

Kyle Parker?

Aug 15, 2010 09:06 AM
rating: 0
 
BP staff member Kevin Goldstein
BP staff

He'll sign.

Aug 15, 2010 09:51 AM
 
mranney

I'm with you in thinking that Harper will get at least the record $ 15 + million. I think it's disgraceful that Chapman can get $ 30 million and the top 4-6 draft picks are slotted to get south of $ 6-7 million. It's just Selig, once again, missing the big picture.

Aug 15, 2010 16:48 PM
rating: 0
 
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