Highest Draft Bonuses Of All Time

Three years into the current Collective Bargaining Agreement and its draft slotting system, it’s time to take stock of how the highest bonuses of the last three drafts compare from a historical standpoint.

Below is a list of every draft signing bonus in major league history that is at least $5 million, 27 players in total.
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Kris Bryant

The largest bonus of the last three drafts belongs to Kris Bryant. (Photo by Tony Farlow)

The upper end of the signing bonus pool has been blunted under the current CBA compared to the final few years under the previous CBA. The current CBA also incentivizes teams at the top of the draft to get creative in allocating their draft dollars and their top slot values, which has also worked to keep down the highest bonuses.

Five of the 27 bonuses in excess of $5 million (18.5 percent) are from the past three drafts. Presumably that total would have reached six (22.2 percent) if No. 1 pick Brady Aiken had signed.

For comparisons sake, the final three drafts under the previous CBA (2009-2011), produced more than two and a half times as many bonuses (13) exceeding $5 million. The 2009-2011 drafts account for nearly half (48 percent) of the bonus of more than $5 million. The 2011 draft alone, which stands as the highest draft expenditure in history at $228 million, had six players sign for at least $5 million, which is one more than 2012-2014 drafts combined and the same total if Aiken had signed. The average signing bonus of the five from 2012-2014 ($6.33 million) is roughly the same as the six from 2009-2011 ($6.29 million).

The top three signing bonuses in draft history were under the previous CBA. No. 1 pick Gerrit Cole‘s bonus ($8 million) still stands as the highest ever in the 2011. Stephen Strasburg (No. 1; 2009) and Bubba Starling (No. 5; 2011) are tied for the second-highest bonuses in history at $7.5 million. Starling has the highest draft bonus of any high school player in draft history; second is Jameson Taillon (2010; $6.5 million) at sixth overall.

The largest bonus of the last three drafts belongs to 2013 No. 2 pick Kris Bryant ($6,708,400), who ranks fourth all-time. No. 3 pick Carlos Rodon ranks right behind Bryant with a bonus of $6,582,000, the largest in the 2014 draft.

The top signed draftee in the last three drafts has not signed for the highest bonus.

TOP BONUSES ALL-TIME
Rank Player, Pos. Team, Year (Pick) Bonus
1 Gerrit Cole, rhp Pirates, 2011 (No. 1) $8,000,000
T-2 Stephen Strasburg, rhp Nationals, 2009 (No. 1) *$7,500,000
T-2 Bubba Starling, of Royals, 2011 (No. 5) **$7,500,000
4 Kris Bryant, 3b Cubs, 2013 (No. 2) $6,708,400
5 Carlos Rodon, lhp White Sox, 2014 (No. 3) $6,582,000
6 Jameson Taillon, rhp Pirates, 2010 (No. 2) $6,500,000
T-7 Danny Hultzen, lhp Mariners, 2011 (No. 2) *$6,350,000
T-7 Mark Appel, rhp Astros, 2013 (No. 1) $6,350,000
T-9 Donavan Tate, of Padres, 2009 (No. 3) **$6,250,000
T-9 Bryce Harper, of Nationals, 2010 (No. 1) *$6,250,000
11 Buster Posey, c Giants, 2008 (No. 5) $6,200,000
12 Tim Beckham, ss Rays, 2008 (No. 1) **$6,150,000
13 Justin Upton, ss Diamondbacks, 2005 (No. 1) **$6,100,000
T-14 Matt Wieters, c Orioles, 2007 (No. 5) $6,000,000
T-14 Pedro Alvarez, 3b Pirates, 2008 (No. 2) *$6,000,000
T-14 Eric Hosmer, 1b Royals, 2008 (No. 3) $6,000,000
T-14 Dustin Ackley, of Mariners, 2009 (No. 2) *$6,000,000
T-14 Anthony Rendon, 3b Nationals, 2011 (No. 6) *$6,000,000
T-14 Byron Buxton, of Twins, 2012 (No. 2) $6,000,000
T-14 Tyler Kolek, rhp Marlins, 2014 (No. 2) $6,000,000
21 David Price, lhp Rays, 2007 (No. 1) *$5,600,000
22 Joe Borcahrd, of White Sox, 2000 (No. 12) $5,300,000
T-23 Manny Machado, ss Orioles, 2010 (No. 3) $5,250,000
T-23 Zach Lee, rhp Dodgers, 2010 (No. 28) **$5,250,000
25 Joe Mauer, c Twins, 2001 (No. 1) $5,150,000
T-26 Archie Bradley, rhp Diamondbacks, 2011 (No. 7) $5,000,000
T-26 Josh Bell, of Pirates, 2011 (2nd Rd, No. 61) $5,000,000
*Part of major league contract.
**Bonus spread over multiple years under MLB provisions for two-sport athletes.

Year 5MM+ Bonuses
2014 2
2013 2
2012 1
2011 6
2010 4
2009 3
2008 4
2007 2
2005 1
2001 1
2000 1
Total 27

Draft | #2014 draft #Brady Aiken #Carlos Rodon #Gerrit Cole #Kris Bryant

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