Barely Above Slot

Agreeable first-rounders sign quickly




Commissioner Bud Selig's decision to slash bonus recommendations by 10 percent this year hasn't significantly delayed the signing of first-round picks. In the first four weeks after the draft, 11 first-rounders had signed pro contracts.

At the same point, 12 first-rounders had agreed to terms in 2008 and 13 had signed in 2007.

The highest picks to turn pro have been Boston College catcher Tony Sanchez (No. 4), who received a $2.5 million bonus from the Pirates, and California high school righthander Matt Hobgood (No. 5), who landed a $2.422 million bonus from the Orioles. The 11 first-rounders who have signed averaged $1.449 million in bonuses, compared to $1.509 million in MLB recommendations for their slot and $2.065 million in bonuses for those picks in 2008.

None of the four players signed in the first 20 picks—Sanchez, Hobgood, Stanford righthander Drew Storen ($1.6 million from the Nationals at No. 10) and Notre Dame outfielder A.J. Pollock ($1.4 million from the Diamondbacks at No. 17)—received a full-slot bonus.

The only first-rounder to exceed MLB's recommendation so far is California high school shortstop Jiovanni Mier, who received a $1,358,000 bonus from the Astros at No. 21. MLB's guideline for that slot is $1,332,000.

Mier, like most draftees, will collect all of his bonus by Jan. 1. MLB is calculating that the slight deferral of the final payment decreases the net present value of his deal to $1,329,224, slightly below slot. MLB never has applied that reduction to a standard one-year bonus payout in the past.

Lipscomb lefthander Rex Brothers landed the largest above-slot deal in the first month after the draft. On July 7, he agreed to terms on a $969,000 bonus with the Rockies, $51,000 above the slot recommendation at No. 34. Brothers split the difference between MLB's 2009 ($918,000) and 2008 ($1.02 million) guidelines for his pick. Brothers' deal could be a signal that MLB was ready to start approving more slightly above-slot bonuses, which is usually the case a month after the draft.

Expect a lull until a week or so before the Aug. 17 deadline. The last time MLB arbitrarily cut slots 10 percent, in 2007, several first-rounders held out for the previous year's numbers and received them at the deadline.

There also are many players—San Diego State righthander Stephen Strasburg (No. 1, Nationals), North Carolina outfielder Dustin Ackley (No. 2, Mariners), Georgia high school outfielder Donavan Tate (No. 3, Padres), Missouri prep righty Jacob Turner (No. 9, Tigers), Fort Worth Cats (American Association) righty Aaron Crow (No. 12, Royals), Southern California shortstop Grant Green (No. 13, Athletics), Texas high school lefty Matt Purke (No. 14, Rangers) and Texas prep righty Shelby Miller (No. 19, Cardinals)—seeking more than twice MLB's guidelines for their slots. While all of them are expected to sign, MLB won't approve significantly above-slot deals until shortly before the deadline.

DRAFT DATA

• Another Colorado draftee, Clemson first baseman Ben Paulsen, agreed to a $391,000 bonus on the same day as Brothers, getting $4,000 more than the slot recommendation at No. 90. Both players are represented by Jet Sports Management. Before Brothers and Paulsen, the only players believed to have exceeded MLB's guidelines barely cleared the bar. Dallas Baptist righthander Victor Black signed with the Pirates for $717,000 ($600 above slot at No. 49) and Santa Fe (Fla.) CC third baseman Keon Broxton joined the Diamondbacks for $358,000 ($700 above slot at No. 95).

• The Mariners had one of the biggest draft bonanzas with four of the first 51 choices. But Seattle had yet to sign any of them, or any of its eight picks in the top six rounds. The Mariners were nearing an agreement with North Carolina second baseman Kyle Seager (third round), pending a physical, and hoped to close more deals with their early choices in the near future. Seager had heart surgery as an infant and had an extra round of tests on his heart before the Mariners approved his contract.

• By contrast, the Astros already had locked up their first 11 choices (and 24 of their top 25) within a month of the draft. It cost Houston $3,426,800 to sign its picks in the first 10 rounds. Mier was off to the best start of any of the Astros' top picks, hitting .300/.391/.475 in 40 at-bats with two triples and a home run for Rookie-level Greeneville in the Appalachian League.

FIRST-ROUND BONUSES
Bonuses for first-round picks, along with Baseball America's estimate of MLB's slot recommendation and the bonus for that choice in 2008:
Team Player, Pos. Bonus Est. Slot '08 Bonus
1. Nats: Stephen Strasburg, rhp Unsigned $4,000,000 $6,150,000*
2. Mariners: Dustin Ackley, of Unsigned $3,250,000 $6,000,000+
3. Padres: Donavan Tate, of Unsigned $2,925,000 $6,000,000
4. Pirates: Tony Sanchez, c $2,500,000 $2,700,000 $3,200,000+
5. Orioles: Matt Hobgood, rhp $2,422,000 $2,520,000 $6,200,000
6. Giants: Zack Wheeler, rhp Unsigned $2,340,000 $2,300,000
7. Braves: Mike Minor, lhp Unsigned $2,178,000 $2,000,000+
8. Reds: Mike Leake, rhp Unsigned $2,043,000 $2,600,000
9. Tigers: Jacob Turner, rhp Unsigned $1,962,000 Did not sign
10. Nationals: Drew Storen, rhp $1,600,000 $1,863,000 $2,070,000
11. Rockies: Tyler Matzek, lhp Unsigned $1,791,000 $3,500,000
12. Royals: Aaron Crow, rhp Unsigned $1,719,000 $1,910,000
13. Athletics: Grant Green, ss Unsigned $1,656,000 $1,840,000
14. Rangers: Matt Purke, lhp Unsigned $1,602,000 $1,780,000
15. Indians: Alex White, rhp Unsigned $1,557,000 $1,730,000
16. Dbacks: Bobby Borchering, 3b Unsigned $1,512,000 $1,700,000
17. Dbacks: A.J. Pollock, of $1,400,000 $1,467,000 $1,500,000
18. Marlins: Chad James, lhp Unsigned $1,422,000 $1,575,000
19. Cardinals: Shelby Miller, rhp Unsigned $1,386,000 $1,540,000
20. Blue Jays: Chad Jenkins, rhp Unsigned $1,350,000 $1,750,000
21. Astros: Jiovanni Mier, ss $1,358,000 $1,332,000 $1,480,000
22. Twins: Kyle Gibson, rhp Unsigned $1,287,000 $1,419,000
23. White Sox: Jared Mitchell, of Unsigned $1,260,000 $1,150,000
24. Angels: Randal Grichuk, of $1,242,000 $1,242,000 $1,380,000
25. Angels: Mike Trout, of $1,215,000 $1,215,000 $1,350,000
26. Brewers: Eric Arnett, rhp $1,197,000 $1,197,000 $1,330,000
27. Mariners: Nick Franklin, ss Unsigned $1,161,000 $1,290,000
28. Red Sox: Reymond Fuentes, of $1,134,000 $1,134,000 Did not sign
29. Yankees: Slade Heathcott, of Unsigned $1,107,000 $1,100,000
30. Rays: LeVon Washington, 2b Unsigned $1,080,000 $3,000,000*
31. Cubs: Brett Jackson, of $972,000 $972,000 $1,080,000
32. Rockies: Tim Wheeler, of $900,000 $954,000 $1,060,000
*Part of major league contract. +Bonus spread over multiple years under baseball's two-sport rule.