See also: The Pros and Cons of Drafting Rodon
See also: Picking Rodon Will Come at a Price
The White Sox and lefthander Carlos Rodon, the No. 3 overall pick in this year’s draft, have agreed to terms on a contract that includes a signing bonus of $6,582,000, the largest signing bonus for a draft pick in franchise history, the largest signing bonus in this year’s draft class, and a bonus more than $700,000 above slot value.
No. 1 overall draft pick Brady Aiken and the Astros agreed to terms last month on a $6.5 million bonus, though an Astros club official reports that deal has never become official, and CBSSports.com’s John Heyman has reported the Astros have reduced their bonus offer to $5 million.
Rodon’s bonus was just at the maximum amount the White Sox could offer without losing a draft pick next year. Current draft rules establish an overall signing budget for each team, based on the combined pick values for all of its selections in the first 10 rounds. Teams that exceed the budget pay a 75 percent tax on the overage, and if they go more than 5 percent over budget they lose a first-round pick in the next draft.
In three drafts under the new rules (this year is the third), no team has shown a willingness to do that. (Teams that go 10 percent over also lose a second-round pick, and teams that go more than 15 percent over lose two second-round picks, but it does not appear that teams will ever flirt with those penalties.)
The White Sox had a total signing budget of just over $9.5 million, and they quickly signed their other picks in the first 10 rounds to bonuses totaling about $3.4 million. By Baseball America’s calculations, that left them $6,582,585 to sign Rodon without penalty (their remaining pool amount plus 5 percent). The bonus slot for the No. 3 selection this year was $5,721,500, while Rodon was rumored to be seeking a bonus of $8 million. The middle ground seemed to be the best either side could practically expect to do.
Rodon flew to Chicago on Wednesday to take his physical and to complete negotiations with the White Sox and general manager Rick Hahn. He’s advised by the Scott Boras Corp. The White Sox and Boras Corp. have a contentious history with draft picks, and the Sox had not drafted a Boras client this high since failing to sign Jeff Weaver in 1997. They had not signed a Boras client in the first round since Alex Fernandez in 1990.
Rodon was BA’s Freshman of the Year in 2012 and led North Carolina State to the College World Series last year, when he led the nation in strikeouts. He entered 2014 as the No. 1 prospect in the draft class, but inconsistent fastball velocity and command, as well as the improvements by Aiken and Texas prep righthander Tyler Kolek, pushed Rodon down to No. 3 on the BA 500. He went 6-7, 2.01 this spring for a disappointing Wolfpack team that was shut out in four of his seven losses. Rodon’s 117 strikeouts in 98 2/3 innings ranked 10th in NCAA Division I.
The largest bonus in White Sox history was the $10 million given last offseason to Cuban free agent Jose Abreu. The previous record draft bonus for the franchise was $5.3 million, which it used in 2000 to sign Joe Borchard. Borchard was a Stanford outfielder who was the 12th overall pick in the 2000 draft, but he also had the leverage of being a standout quarterback as well, and the White Sox signed him to end his football career.