Just when you thought baseball’s signing deadline couldn’t get any duller, it has.
In 2011, the last year of the previous Collective Bargaining Agreement, 23 first-round picks remained unsigned at the outset of the Aug. 15 deadline day. Twenty-two of them signed deals worth a total of $73.2 million and the industry as a whole spent $139.1 million on draftees on the final day.
With revamped draft rules coming into play with a new CBA last year, only five first-rounders were unsigned when the July 13 deadline day began. Four of them signed for a combined $11.6 million and a total of 23 players from all rounds signed for a combined $16.9 million.
There won’t be even that much activity today, when the signing deadline takes effect at 5 p.m. Eastern time.
The Marlins and No. 6 overall pick Colin Moran agreed to terms on a $3,516,500 bonus and a few assorted perks on Thursday, a deal that will become official once he completes his physical today. That leaves just one unsigned first-rounder: California high school righthander Phil Bickford (No. 10, Blue Jays).
On Thursday, Toronto GM Alex Anthopoulos told local reporters that he didn’t expect his club would sign Bickford. He didn’t elaborate much on why, other than to say that the issue wasn’t financial.
A Cal State Fullerton recruit, Bickford reportedly had a $4.25 million price tag before the draft. The No. 10 selection carries an assigned value of $2,921,400, though Toronto also has saved $1,773,520 on its other signings in the first 10 rounds. The Blue Jays could pay Bickford as much as $5,014,830 without forfeiting a 2014 first-round pick for going more than 5 percent over their bonus pool of $6,398,200.
Other sources involved with the negotiations shared Anthopoulos’ pessimism. None of them, on or off the record, intimated that a physical issue was involved. It’s unclear what led to the impasse or if there’s any real possibility it can be resolved by the deadline.
Of the 316 players drafted in the top 10 rounds, only nine of them have failed to agree to terms. After Bickford, the highest selections are a pair of Marlins: San Francisco prep righthander Matt Krook (supplemental first round) and Orlando high school outfielder Ben DeLuzio (third round).
A postdraft physical exam of Krook raised issues that he and the Marlins couldn’t resolve, so he’ll attend Oregon. DeLuzio apparently changed his mind about turning pro and will head to Florida State.
Lee (Tenn.) righthander Myles Smith also backed out of an agreement with the Red Sox in the fourth round, though there’s a chance he still could sign today. Oregon State lefthander Ben Wetzler (fifth round) continues to negotiate with the Phillies.
Washington State outfielder Jason Monda (sixth round, Phillies), New York high school righthander Stephen Woods (sixth round, Marlins), Indiana third baseman Dustin DeMuth (eighth round, Twins) and Kansas State second baseman Ross Kivett (10th round, Indians) aren’t expected to sign. Woods has committed to play at Albany if he attends college.
There also doesn’t figure to be much activity after the 10th round, where any bonus money over $100,000 for an individual player counts against a club’s bonus pool. The Blue Jays have more money left in their pool than any team, and what should be more than enough to strike deals with Missouri high school lefthander Jake Brentz (11th round, No. 80 on the BA 500) and California prep first baseman Rowdy Tellez (30th round, No. 59 on the BA 500). Toronto appears closer to a deal with Tellez than with Brentz.
Other signing possibilities after the 10th round include Nevada high school righthander Devonte German (11th round, Astros), Colorado prep lefthander Denton Keys (11th round, Phillies) and Tennessee high school righty Trevor Clifton (12th round, Cubs).