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Who's Left: Unsigned picks from the first 10 rounds

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Signings pick up steam

Wednesday, August 23

By Allan Simpson

With classes cranking up at colleges across the country this week and next, the pace of player signings from the 2000 draft has picked up steam.

Among the players who have agreed to terms this week are lefthander Sam Hays of Waco, Texas, and righthander Zach Miner of Palm Beach Gardens, Fla.—high school players who were regarded among the toughest signs in the draft.

Both were fourth-round selections, though Hays was the Mariners' first pick because they lost their first three due to free-agent signings.

Hays signed with the Mariners for $1.2 million Monday night, hours before he was scheduled to start classes at Baylor. Miner, the first of nine unsigned clients represented by agent Scott Boras, signed with the Braves on a $1.25 million deal Wednesday morning, just as he was scheduled to begin classes at Miami.

Major league teams lose the rights to sign draft picks once the players attend their first class.

Several more high-profile signings are expected in the next few days. Four first-round picks remain unsigned, and 41 from the first 10 rounds.

Three of the four first-rounders were scheduled to be in class Wednesday. None took the final step across the threshold, though, as they weighed final offers.

California prep righthander Matt Harrington, the draft's highest unsigned pick at seventh overall, has stayed out of school at Arizona State while his adviser, Tommy Tanzer, meets with the Rockies.

Righthander Chris Bootcheck, the 20th overall selection, was waiting to return to school at Auburn as negotiations with the Angels continue.

And Florida high school shortstop David Espinosa, the 23rd overall pick, decided not to start classes at Miami in order to give the Reds a final chance to get a contract done.

Both Bootcheck and Espinosa are being advised by Boras, whose clients have often waited until the last minute to sign.

A source close to the Harrington negotiations said the Rockies had offered a unique long-term deal to Harrington that includes a major league contract. Because of the complexity of the contract, Tanzer and Harrington could take several days to respond to the offer.

Tanzer has said since before the draft that Harrington is the top talent in this year's pool and should be paid accordingly. His starting point was $4.95 million—the amount Josh Hamilton received ($3.96 million) as the No. 1 pick in 1999 plus a 25 percent increase that he says has been paid each year to the top pick. That figure climbed when the White Sox gave outfielder Joe Borchard, their first-round pick, a record $5.3 million contract in late July.

Harrington might not end up at Arizona State even if he can't work out something with the Rockies right away. The more likely possibility is Los Angeles Pierce Junior College, where classes begin Sept. 5. He could also enroll there in January. In either case, the Rockies would retain his rights until a week before next year's draft.

The other unsigned first-round pick is Loyola Marymount lefthander Bill Traber (16th overall), who had agreed in principle with the Mets to a bonus slightly more than $1.7 million. A physical revealed that Traber has a bone spur and a damaged ligament in his elbow, though, and the Mets drastically reduced their offer.

Traber, who apparently was not aware that he had an elbow problem, has until Monday, when classes begin, to decide whether to take the Mets' reduced offer or return for his senior year.

Back To School

Two of three supplemental first-round picks did return to college. Righthander Aaron Heilman (31st overall) rejected the Twins' final offer and began his senior year at Notre Dame Tuesday. Outfielder Tyrell Godwin (35th overall) started classes at North Carolina Wednesday, forfeiting his right to sign with the Rangers.

A third supplemental first-rounder, righthander Dustin Moseley (34th overall), also hadn't signed, and reports out of Cincinnati indicate that the Reds might not be able to sign any of their first three picks.

Because the Reds' attendance was going to fall about 400,000 fans short of team projections, team officials said they could not afford to sign Espinosa, Moseley or Pepperdine catcher Dane Sardinha.

But some still expected Moseley to sign a 2001 contract with the Reds in which most of the bonus money would be deferred. Moseley is committed to Arkansas, where classes begin Monday.

Espinosa and Sardinha are both clients of Boras, who has two unsigned first-rounders, five unsigned second-rounders and an unsigned fourth-rounder.

Espinosa, rated one of the top players in the draft, is looking for a bonus of at least $3 million. The Reds reportedly have offered something in the neighborhood of what the picks around Espinosa received—about $1.4 million, with most of the bonus spread out over a five-year period.

Sardinha is expected to return to Pepperdine for his senior year if he doesn't sign.

The Reds also hadn't signed their fourth- and eighth-round picks and have until Monday to sign outfielder Roydell Williams, their fifth-rounder. Williams is working out with the football team at Tulane.

Other unsigned top draft picks scheduled to begin classes on Monday include: first baseman Jason Stokes (Texas), a second-round pick of the Marlins; outfielder Mewelde Moore (Tulane), a fourth-round pick of the Padres and a football teammate of Williams; righthander Brian Montalbo (California), a fourth-round pick of the Braves; Rice righthanders Jon Skaggs (fourth round, Orioles) and Kenny Baugh (fifth round, Athletics); catcher Tony Richie (Florida State), a fifth-round pick of the White Sox; and righthander Jason Sharber (Vanderbilt), a fifth-round pick of the Pirates.

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