Guthrie signs, but Bullington and Brownlie wait
By Josh Boyd
Bonuses to first-round picks were largely kept in check, not escalating exponentially as they have for more than a decade. Four first-rounders remained unsigned, including the Mariners first pick, first baseman/outfielder John Mayberry Jr., who enrolled at Stanford and wont be eligible for re-entry until after his junior year.
Though the Pirates and No. 1 pick Bryan Bullington originally were optimistic about getting a deal done in time for instructional league, which started on Sept. 18, the two sides remained at a standstill more than four months after Pittsburgh selected the Ball State righthander. That optimism seems to have waned as instructional league continued on without the righthander, who plans to re-enroll in school in January if an agreement is not reached.
"The talks are ongoing," according to Pirates scouting director Ed Creech.
Brownlie Out, Guthrie In
Rutgers righthander Bobby Brownlie, regarded as the top pitching prospect prior to the 2001 season, also elected to stay out of school this fall as he continued to negotiate with the Cubs. The two sides were reportedly more than $1 million apart, and Brownlie told the Rutgers student newspaper that there is an 80 percent chance hell take the mound for Rutgers next spring.
While those words are likely a combination of frustration and a negotiating ploy by the Scott Boras client, Brownlie took notice that another Boras client, Jeremy Guthrie, signed a $4 million major league pact that included a $3 million bonus. Heading into the season Brownlie rated ahead of Guthrie, but a sore arm hampered Brownlie all spring, leading to disappointing performances down the stretch.
Guthrie, who was the Pirates third-round pick in 2001 after his sophomore season, rose to the top of several draft boards during an All-America 13-2, 2.51 campaign as Stanfords ace.
Guthrie answered some concerns about his durability by logging six complete games in his final eight starts while maintaining his 90-96 mph velocity throughout the season. He pitched in a national-high 158 innings, a big reason why Cleveland was in no hurry to sign him.
As Guthrie was thriving, questions about Brownlies health caused him to slide to the 21st pickone slot ahead of Guthrie. Despite going 6-6, 3.50 with 80 hits allowed in 79 innings, Brownlies camp is still demanding money more befitting his preseason All-America status.
Clemson third baseman Jeff Baker, another Boras client who was considered a first-round talent by all accounts if not the top college position player on the board, signed a major league deal in the last week of September for $2 million. Baker, who projected to go as high as the ninth overall pick, slid to the fourth roundand reportedly could have agreed to a predraft offer in excess of the $2 million he eventually signed for.
With a few exceptions, teams were able to keep bonuses under control, even a year after top picks Mark Prior and Mark Teixeira landed record-setting deals in the $10 million range.
"Most clubs held the line because of the uncertainty with the strike," said Orioles scouting director Tony DeMacio, who was unable to come to terms with the fourth overall pick, Adam Loewen. "Some clubs always seem to overpay, but for the most part I think bonuses were fair this year.
"The year before, there were some very good high picks with Prior and Teixeira. But every year is different; thats just how it is."
Following A Different Lead
B.J. Uptons $4.6 million bonus was the highest, followed by Guthries, but Chris Grulers $2.5 million predraft deal set the tone for the top picks. Perceived as a bargain based on last years slot (the Devil Rays signed righthander Dewon Brazelton for $4.5 million), Grulers deal may have helped organizations keep bonuses down. But that wasnt the only factor that played a role.
"It was a perfect year for teams to do that," an agent said. "Not only were they making a concerted effort to (keep bonuses down), you couple that with the fact the talent was down from last year and the impending labor situation. It was easier for them to do what they wanted."
With the threat of a strike erased from negotiations, unsigned picks and teams are facing different deadlines now. After signing Gruler, the Reds had yet to sign their next four picks, including sandwich pick Mark Schramek, Kyle Edens, Camilo Vasquez and Kevin Howard. None was enrolled in school.
Schramek, a senior from Texas-San Antonio who was a surprise top 50 pick to begin with, reportedly was within $25,000 of signing but has since explored his options in Japan. Negotiations there were at an impasse, leaving Schramek with few options.
The Reds have a history of being creative when it comes to signing their picks. They were reportedly closing in on deals with Edens and Vasquez, though they are expected to wait until Novemberthe start of the 2003 fiscal yearto make them official. This enables the Reds to draw from next years signing budget, much like they did in 1999 and 2000.
A list of the players selected in the first 12 rounds of the 2002 draft who didnt sign, and the college theyre attending. Players denoted with an asterisk are collegians who are returning to the same school. Teams control the rights to players attending junior college and may sign them next spring between the completion of their junior college season and the start of the closed period (one week before the draft).
* Returned to previous school
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