Twenty of the 32 first-rounders remain unsigned today, 13 days before the Aug. 17 deadline. At the same point last year, all but 11 of the 2008 first-rounders had agreed to terms.
No first-rounder has signed since Louisiana State outfielder Jared Mitchell, the No. 23 overall pick, accepted $1.2 million from the White Sox on July 8. Only one of the 12 first-rounders who has turned pro has exceeded the bonus recommended by the commissioner’s office: California high school shortstop Jiovanni Mier, who received a $1,358,000 bonus from the Astros at No. 21.
The commissioner’s office won’t even acknowledge that Mier got an above-slot bonus. Like most draftees, he’ll collect all of his bonus by Jan. 1, but MLB is calculating that the slight deferral of the final payment decreases the net present value of his deal to $1,329,224—just under its recommendation of $1,332,000. MLB never has applied that reduction to a standard bonus payout in the past.
Below is the status of the unsigned first-round picks, almost all of whom are expected to sign in the end. The deals will exceed slot recommendations, so MLB will hold off on confirming them until shortly before the deadline, which has been pushed back two days to so it won’t fall on a weekend. In most cases where the player will get well-over-slot money, negotiations haven’t advanced past the preliminary stages.
• San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg, the No. 1 overall pick by the Nationals, and agent Scott Boras reportedly want a $50 million contract. While Strasburg would command that on the open market, he’ll have to settle for smashing Mark Prior’s draft-record $10.5 million deal from 2001. Strasburg and Washington will meet somewhere in the middle, though Boras may yet unveil some gambit designed to make his client a free agent.
• North Carolina first baseman Dustin Ackley (No. 2, Mariners) is the best hitter in the draft and a Boras client. That combination usually leads Boras to comparisons to Mark Teixeira, who signed the richest draft deal ever for a hitter with a $9.5 million contract in 2001. In recent years, the market for the top position player has been established around $6 million.
• Five high school players alarmed clubs with high price tags before the draft: Georgia outfielder Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres), Missouri righthander Jacob Turner (No. 9, Tigers), California lefty Tyler Matzek (No. 11, Rockies), Texas lefty Matthew Purke (No. 14, Rangers) and Texas righty Shelby Miller (No. 19, Cardinals). Tate wanted $6 million; Turner and Purke sought "Rick Porcello money," the record $7 million contract for a high schooler that Porcello and Josh Beckett got; Matzek mentioned "precedent-setting money," presumably more than the Porcello/Beckett record; and Miller asked for $4 million. Teams will chisel away at those prices, with Matzek expected to be the toughest player to sign out of that group.
• Along with Matzek, Turner, Purke and Miller, Georgia high school righthander Zack Wheeler (No. 6, Giants) was considered one of the five elite high school pitchers in this draft. Unlike the others, he didn’t announce a huge price tag, but he’ll still get much more than MLB’s $2.6 million recommendation for his slot.
• Vanderbilt lefthander Mike Minor (No. 7, Braves), Arizona State righthander Mike Leake (No. 8, Reds), Kennesaw State righty Chad Jenkins (No. 20, Blue Jays) and Florida high school shortstop Nick Franklin (No. 27, Mariners) are angling for last year’s recommendations rather than this year’s reduced slots.
• Fort Worth Cats righthander Aaron Crow (No. 12, Royals), Southern California shortstop Grant Green (No. 13, Athletics) and North Carolina righty Alex White (No. 15, Indians) are seeking deals more in line with the top-five picks they once projected to be.
• Three other high schoolers put out asking prices before the draft that are higher than the 2008 recommendations for where they were drafted. Florida third baseman Bobby Borchering (No. 16, Diamondbacks) wanted $2.0 million, Oklahoma lefthander Chad James (No. 18, Marlins) asked for $1.75 million, and Texas outfielder Slade Heathcott (No. 29, Yankees) sought upwards of $2 million.
• Missouri righthander Kyle Gibson (No. 22, Twins) had a chance to be a top-five pick before coming down with a stress fracture in his forearm shortly before the draft. His negotiations hinge on how well he’ll be able to throw for the Twins before the deadline.
• Florida outfielder LeVon Washington (No. 30, Rays) got as little predraft hype as any first-rounder, but he’s advised by Boras so slot money ($1.08 million) probably won’t cut it.
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