Sweeping changes to baseball's draft rules have led to a drastically different signing deadline day.
A year ago, when MLB tried to limit bonus spending through an informal slotting system, 23 of 33 first-round picks were unsigned on deadline day (Aug. 15). Eleven of 27 supplemental first-rounders hadn't come to terms, and 98 of the 331 selections in the first 10 rounds hadn't done so. The commissioner's office pressured clubs into delaying lucrative offers and announcing extravagant deals for as long as possible.
With the new Collective Bargaining Agreement levying harsh penalties for teams that exceed their assigned bonus pools—such as the loss of a first-round pick for an overage of more than 5 percent—MLB has taken a laissez-faire attitude and let the rules work as intended.
So despite the deadline being moved up more than a month to today, almost all of the top choices have signed. Just five of the 31 first-rounders haven't turned pro, and one of those (Rays third baseman Richie Shaffer) has agreed to terms. All 29 supplemental first-rounders are under contract, and all but 17 of the 338 choices in the top 10 rounds have signed.
Here's where negotiations stand with the dozen unsigned players in the top five rounds:
Kevin Gausman, rhp, Louisiana State (Orioles, first round, No. 4 overall): Though he intimated to the New Orleans Times-Picayune on Monday that he might return to LSU for his junior season, that's unlikely. He should sign somewhere around the assigned value for his pick, $4.2 million.
Mark Appel, rhp, Stanford (Pirates, first round, No. 8 overall): Appel was expected to go No. 1 overall to the Astros and sign for in the neighborhood of $6 million. Instead, he slipped to No. 8 and Pittsburgh currently can't pay him more than $3,837,575 without forfeiting a first-round pick, which it has vowed not to do. Appel would risk a lot by re-entering the 2013 draft, but his camp has sent out vibes that he's prepared to do that. This one could go either way.
Andrew Heaney, lhp, Oklahoma State (Marlins, first round, No. 9 overall): Miami has taken a hard-line approach with Heaney and told him Tuesday that they would not sign him. Various sources say they capped their offer at $2.2 million, $2.6 million and $2.7 million, all shy of his assigned pick value of $2.8 million. The Marlins have insisted on thorough physicals for draft picks following 2003 first-rounder Jeff Allison's battle with drug addiction, and there may not be enough time to get that done. But it's still hard to imagine that Miami will walk away from Heaney, especially when it didn't have a second-round pick and hasn't signed its third-rounder.
Lucas Giolito, rhp, Harvard-Westlake HS, Studio City, Calif. (Nationals, first round, No. 16 overall): Before injuring his elbow in March, Giolito figured to go in the top three selections and command a bonus of $5 million or more. He hasn't pitched in a game since and has a scholarship from UCLA as an option. Washington can spend $3,034,510 without losing a first-round choice, and that seems like a fair price that balances his ceiling and risk.
Richie Shaffer, 3b, Clemson (Rays, first round, No. 25 overall): Shaffer has agreed to terms with Tampa Bay on a bonus slightly under his assigned pick value of $1,725,000. His deal should be announced early today.
Nolan Sanburn, rhp, Arkansas (Athletics, second round): Sanburn has extra leverage as a college sophomore and should parlay that into a bonus a little above his $691,000 pick value.
Teddy Stankiewicz, rhp, Fort Worth Christian HS, Richland Hills, Texas (Mets, second round): Stankiewicz was willing to sign for his pick value ($680,400) on draft day, but New York has yet to come within 10 percent of that number. He could forgo a commitment to Arkansas and attend Seminole State (Okla.) JC if he doesn't turn pro.
Alec Rash, rhp, Adel DeSoto Minburn HS, Adel, Iowa (Phillies, second round): Rash showed a 91-93 mph fastball that touched 95 during the spring, but he has worked in the upper 80s during Iowa's summer high school season. Philadelphia has pulled its offer to Rash, making it likely that he'll attend Missouri.
Avery Romero, 3b, Menendez HS, St. Augustine, Fla. (Marlins, third round): Miami's insistence on not exceeding its bonus pool (and avoiding a 75-percent tax on the overage) leaves a wide gap between what it's willing to pay ($574,400) and Romero's predraft asking price (reportedly $1 million). If he follows through on his commitment to Florida, the Marlins' top signee could be supplemental third-rounder Kolby Copeland.
Kyle Twomey, lhp, El Dorado HS, Placentia, Calif. (Athletics, third round): If Oakland signs Sanburn for slightly more than pick value, it will have roughly $600,000 left in its bonus pool for Twomey. That probably won't get a deal done. If the Athletics are willing to eat some draft tax, they could go up to $1 million, which would.
Brandon Thomas, of, Georgia Tech (Pirates, fourth round): This negotiation has been extremely quiet. Thomas went slightly lower than projected, so he could be seeking more than pick value ($336,700) while Pittsburgh tries to save as much money as possible for a run at Appel.
Colin Poche, lhp, Marcus HS, Flower Mound, Texas (Orioles, fifth round): Though Poche told the Northwest Arkansas Newspapers last week that he would attend Arkansas, Baltimore hasn't given up on signing him. His pick value is $262,000, but the Orioles could go as high as $723,545 without losing a first-rounder (though that number could change depending on Gausman's bonus).
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