Top Pick, Top Talent Sign Big Deals
Andrew Miller has had quite a year.
The North Carolina lefthander was the College Player of the Year, led the Tar Heels to the College World Series championship series and was the No. 6 overall pick in the draft.
Then he signed with the Tigers for the largest guaranteed contract of any 2006 draftee, just edging out the No. 1 overall pick, righthander Luke Hochevar, who signed with the Royals a day before Miller's contract became official.
To top it off, Miller will end his year in the major leagues.
The Tigers signed Miller to a major league contract that includes a $3.55 million bonus and a guaranteed September callup. According to a source familiar with the negotiations, the contract guarantees Miller more than $5.4 million, and with escalator clauses tied to his presence on the 25-man roster, Miller could earn nearly $7.3 million. His contract also allows him to opt out early for arbitration.
The September callup will allow the 6-foot-6, 210-pound Miller, the Roger Clemens Award winner as college baseball's best pitcher, to join the Tigers' big league club during one of the best seasons in franchise history. The surprising Tigers, 72-36 when he signed, had the majors' best record and team ERA (3.70).
"It's why I'm so happy to be a Tiger right now," Miller told reporters on a conference call. "The future certainly is bright in Detroit and I hope I can be part of that."
Miller was to be assigned to high Class A Lakeland, close to his home in Gainesville, Fla., where he has been working out since the end of the CWS. And general manager Dave Dombrowski told reporters Miller could pitch for Detroit during his September stint.
"One of the thoughts in our mind was, if we could get Andrew signed in a reasonable amount of time, he could be helpful to us in the month of September in the bullpen," Dombrowski said. "He's going to be a starter in the long term, but he could be valuable as a (September) reliever."
Miller, an unsigned third-round pick out of high school in 2003 by the Devil Rays, went 13-2, 2.48 for the Tar Heels in 2006, striking out 133 in 123 innings. North Carolina's all-time strikeouts leader (325) was 27-9, 2.85 in his three-year career.
Miller's contract is the second-largest of the 2006 draft, surpassed only by Cubs righthander (and Notre Dame wide receiver) Jeff Samardzija. That contract would pay Samardzija a record $7.25 million over five years if Samardzija commits fulltime to baseball. Both are clients of agents Darek Braunecker, Jim Lindell and Mark Rodgers, whose firm, Frontline Athlete Management, also negotiated the record $1.3 million deal of Cubs 11th-round pick Chris Huseby.Holdout Pays Off
Hochevar had the No. 2 contract for all of one day. His deal compares to that signed by Mets righthander Mike Pelfrey, which was worth a guaranteed $5.3 million, with a bonus of $3.5 million. Like Pelfrey, Hochevar was a first-team All-American, is represented by agent Scott Boras and was a first-round pick in 2005. Pelfrey went ninth overall and already has pitched in the major leagues after signing his contract in January. Hochevar, who went 40th overall (in the supplemental first round) to the Dodgers in last year's draft, went through a long, difficult holdout that led him to re-enter the 2006 draft.
As with several other Boras holdouts, the maneuver worked for Hochevar. After agreeing to (and then changing his mind and declining) a $2.98 million contract with the Dodgers last year, Hochevar pitched in independent ball, flashed three plus pitches and improved his draft standing. He not only went No. 1 overall, but also signed a contract that guarantees him more than 60 percent more money than he declined from the Dodgers last September. His contract also is believed to have escalator clauses in it for being on the 25-man big league roster, which could swell the overall value of the deal to close to $7 million.
Hochevar, 22, is the fourth No. 1 overall pick in the last 20 years to sign a major league contract, joining Delmon Young (2003), Pat Burrell (1998) and Alex Rodriguez (1993).
"We are excited to get Luke signed in a timely fashion, which is a tribute to Luke and the Glass family," Royals scouting director Deric Ladnier said in an official statement. "We see Luke as a top-flight talent and a key part to our future success. We're pleased he'll be able to perform this season and begin working toward reaching the major leagues."
Prior to the draft, Hochevar was pitching for the independent Fort Worth Cats, where he posted a 1-1, 2.38 record in four starts. The Royals assigned him to low Class A Burlington in the Midwest League.
"I understand there is a business side and I understand the business side well after going through last year," Hochevar told reporters at Kauffman Stadium two days after signing. "I understand it requires patience. In my mind, I just had to stay locked in to what I had to do as a baseball player to get myself ready. When it all comes down to it, that's what I am."