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August 15, 2011

Future Shock

Monday-Morning Ten-Pack for 8/15/11

by Kevin Goldstein

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A special ten pack with the 10 most interesting negotiations as we head to the wire.

Gerrit Cole, RHP, Pirates (First overall pick)
The first pick always has extra fascination to it, but this year it's for different reasons. The last two top picks, Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper, were historic talents, yet Cole has the same advisor—Scott Boras—and historically, we've rarely seen Boras engage his reverse gear. He could (and likely will) easily argue that Harper and Strasburg are not historic as much as they've simply established a new market for first overall picks, and the Pirates cannot afford the PR hit of an unsigned number one. Expect a huge deal.

Danny Hutlzen, LHP, Mariners (Second overall)
There is plenty of drama at two as well; Hultzen is looking for big cash, and while teams and players play a game of chicken on deadline day, so do players and players. Will Boras make a deal before seeing what he gets for Cole to make sure his other clients get the top bonuses? In the 2008 draft, Buster Posey eventually signed for more than Boras clients Eric Hosmer and Pedro Alvarez received. Don't think that doesn't matter; pride runs high with agents.

Dylan Bundy, RHP, Orioles (Fourth overall)
Bundy, the top high school player taken, threw out some borderline insane pre-draft numbers, with one rumored asking price as high as $30 million. If the industry believed that, he would not have been the fourth pick, but a record deal for a high school arm will likely be in order. Don't be surprised if Bundy also becomes the rare high school arm who earns a big-league deal.

Bubba Starling, OF, Royals (Fifth overall)
All spring, the story with Starling, the first position player taken in the draft, was his football ability and his chance to be the next quarterback at Nebraska. The industry interpreted that as signable yet expensive. Despite all sorts of rumors over the past two weeks, Starling is still expected to sign, but the number could end up higher than the initially anticipated $6-8 million. Look for something closer to $10 million, without quite getting to eight figures.

Anthony Rendon, 3B, Nationals (Sixth overall)
This is one of the uglier negotiations among unsigned single-digit picks because you have the Boras factor and a player who expected to be taken with one of the first two picks. Even at sixth overall, Rendon was the first college hitter to come off the board, and he expects to be paid like that. Rendon’s final bonus figure may play a strong role in Washington's other unsigned picks, which I'll get to in a moment.

Tyler Beede RHP, Blue Jays (21st overall)
Beede sent a pre-draft letter to teams telling them not to select him, yet Toronto did it anyway. I reported rumors of a pre-arranged deal and incurred the wrath of Blue Jays GM Alex Anthopoulos. Last week, Beede insisted that he was going to honor his commitment to Vanderbilt, but the industry still doesn't buy it. I conducted an informal poll this morning among front-office people, and more than half of them believed we would end the day with all 33 first-round picks coming to terms. Of those that felt one player (nobody took more) would not sign, Beede's name did not come up once. I'll be happy to eat crow if I'm wrong (that's a lie; I'll do it but be upset with myself), but until midnight hour and there's no one else around, I still think he signs, and I still think it's for around $3 million.

Tyler Guerreri, RHP, Rays (24th overall)
The player the front-office types predicted not to sign the most often? This guy. Some thought Guerreri was the top high school arm in the draft after Bundy on a stuff level, so now the Rays have a pick in the 20s who thought he could go as high as ninth to the Cubs, and expects to be paid as such. With the Rays’ unique situation this year, that money just might not be coming. “The Rays had so many picks this year,” explained one National League executive this morning, “that spreading out the money and getting one extra pick next year might not be the worst idea if his price ends up being too high.”

Josh Bell, OF, Pirates (61st overall)
Like Beede, Bell sent a letter to teams saying he had every intention of attending college (the University of Texas) in the fall, only it looks like he really meant it. Bell certainly has a price tag, but while he was seen as a top-15 talent, it will take an elite bonus to sign him, and in the end, the dollar sign and the muscle just won't add up. This was still a good pick for the Pirates, not only to reserve the right to make a run, but to have those rights around as an insurance policy if the Cole talks go south and the team needs to throw its money at someone at the end of the day.

Daniel Norris, LHP, Blue Jays (74th overall)
While many Toronto fans seem focused on Beede, Norris is both less likely to sign and the better prospect; more than one team had him as the top high school left-hander on the board. Norris’ price tag is somewhere in the neighborhood of $4 million, and those numbers seemingly have not budged with less than 12 hours to go before the deadline. Toronto will sign one of their top picks, but many believe they won't sign both.

Matt Purke, LHP, Nationals (96th overall)
Purke entered the year as a potential first overall pick, but injuries, ineffectiveness, and no perceived drop in his price tag sent him to the third round. With so many contingencies, Purke is the hardest unsigned player to predict. How much money will the Nationals have left for him after signing Rendon and their other first-round selection, Alex Meyer (also a Boras client)? How much does Purke, a draft-eligible sophomore, really believe he can go back to school and pitch his way back to top-pick candidacy in 2012. If so, how much money convinces him it's not worth the risk? The Nationals have proven to be aggressive with their money in the draft even beyond Strasburg and Harper, but there is no real feel in the industry as to which direction this negotiation goes.  

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

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