Draft Spending Sets A Record
See also: Bonuses By Round
See also: Draft Spending 2008-2010
See also: Highest Bonuses In Draft History
See also: Largest Contracts In Draft History
See also: 2011 Compensatory Picks
At the end of the press conference to celebrate the Nationals' signing of No. 1 overall draft pick Bryce Harper, team president Stan Kasten celebrated by giving general manager Mike Rizzo a whipped-cream pie to the face.
It was the perfect capper to a typically zany signing deadline.
On a deadline day (Aug. 16) when teams left more deals unfinished until the final 24 hours and finished shelling out more money on a single draft than ever before, Washington finalized the terms of Harper's $9.9 million major league contract with agent Scott Boras with less than a minute to spare.
Seventeen first-round choices and 79 total players in the first 10 rounds were unsigned as Aug. 16 began. By the time the deadline struck at midnight, 54 of them had signed for bonuses totaling $83.8 million, pushing total spending on the draft to $194.8 million, up from a record $189.3 million a year earlier. Add in major league salaries guaranteed to Harper and fellow first-round picks Yasmani Grandal (Reds) and Zach Cox (Cardinals), and teams committed $200.9 million to draftees.
Harper's $6.25 million bonus, part of the largest guarantee ever given to a drafted position player, pushed the Nationals' bonus total to $11,927,200, eclipsing the record $11,511,500 they set last year with Stephen Strasburg's help. The Pirates ($11,900,400) and Blue Jays ($11,594,400) also beat Washington's 2009 mark. The Red Sox ($10,664,400) were the fourth team to top $10 million, matching the combined total from 45 previous drafts.
Twenty-eight of the 30 clubs exceeded MLB's bonus guidelines to sign at least one player, led by Toronto with 13. The only teams not to participate in the over-slot frenzy were the Braves and Twins.
The commissioner's office worked as hard as ever to keep spending down, pressuring teams into adhering to the slotting system and delaying the approval and announcement of deals. While overall spending reached record highs, first-round bonuses dipped slightly to an average $2,220,966—a 9 percent decrease from $2,434,800 a year ago and the lowest since 2007.
That decline came in part because no club gave a major league contract to a college pitcher after 12 had received big league deals in the six previous drafts. Three of the consensus top four college arms (the Indians' Drew Pomeranz, the Mets' Matt Harvey and the Jays' Deck McGuire) held out until deadline day, yet received bonuses that averaged just $228,667 above MLB's recommendations.
Still, the commissioner's office expressed its displeasure with what it considers profligate spending, rebuking teams and threatening fines when it believed protocol for over-slot deals was breached. Bringing draft expenses more under control was a main topic at the owners' meetings the week before the deadline, and will be a focal point of negotiations for a new collective bargaining agreement. The current deal expires in December 2011.
The owners will push for hard slotting, which could drive high school players to college baseball or other sports each year. While it remains to be seen if mandated bonuses will be part of the 2012 draft, teams are preparing as if they will be.
"If you thought we were aggressive this year, wait until you see next year," an American League scouting director said. "It may be our last chance to sign a lot of the high school players, and we're going to take advantage. A lot of other teams will, too."
If that's the case, draft spending will surge further upward in 2011. There was plenty of splurging this year at the deadline, highlighted by these happenings:
Biggest Deals (First Round)
Bryce Harper, of, Nationals (No. 1 overall):
The most-hyped prospect in draft history landed a deal to match his fanfare. He broke Mark Teixeira's position-player record for the most money guaranteed to a drafted position player ($9.5 million from the Rangers in 2001), while also landing the third-highest big league contract (behind Strasburg's $15.1 million and Mark Prior's $10.5 million from the Cubs in 2001) and the third-highest bonus (behind Strasburg's $7.5 million and Jameson Taillon's $6.5 million from the Pirates this year). The net present value of Harper's deal, discounting it for being paid out through 2015, is $9 million. Harper also can receive an additional $1 million in bonuses if he spends all of 2014 and 2015 on Washington's 25-man roster.
Jameson Taillon, rhp, Pirates (No. 2 overall):
Though he pulled in the most money, Harper didn't land the highest bonus in the 2010 draft. That honor instead went to Taillon, the best pitching prospect available, who signed for $6.5 million, passing Donavan Tate's $6.25 million (Padres, 2009) as the highest for a high schooler and eclipsed only by Strasburg in draft history. The only prep draftees ever to receive larger guarantees were Josh Beckett (Marlins, 1999) and Rick Porcello (Tigers, 2007), who both landed $7 million big league contracts.
Manny Machado, ss, Orioles (No. 3 overall):
As a five-tool shortstop from South Florida, Machado drew the inevitable Alex Rodriguez comparisons and would have been a worthy No. 1 overall pick in some drafts. His talents earned him a $5.25 million bonus, tied for sixth all-time among high schoolers. Taillon and Eric Hosmer ($6 million, Royals, 2008) are the only prep draftees who ever got more up-front money (as opposed to having it spread over multiple years under MLB provisions for two-sport athletes).
Zach Lee, rhp, Dodgers (No. 28 overall):
When Los Angeles selected the Louisiana State-bound quarterback, who was considered virtually unsignable, skeptics said it was a move designed to save money. That cynicism only grew when Lee reported to LSU football practice in August. But the Dodgers got their man, luring him away from Baton Rouge by matching Machado's bonus of $5.25 million. Lee's deal is spread over five years, with a net present value of $4,893,290.
Biggest Deals (Rounds 2-10)
Nick Castellanos, 3b, Tigers (supplemental first round):
Castellanos had the talent to go in the middle of the first round if his rumored asking price of $6 million hadn't scared teams away. He found a perfect match in Detroit, which didn't have a first-round pick. The Tigers rated him near the top of their draft board, and scouting director David Chadd compared him to Evan Longoria. The two sides agreed on a $3.45 million bonus, giving the No. 44 overall pick the fifth-highest bonus in the draft. Castellanos' bonus is the highest ever for a player drafted outside the first round, surpassing Jason Young's $2.75 million (Rockies, 2000), and destroyed the supplemental-round record held by Michael Garciaparra ($2 million, Mariners, 2001).
Anthony Ranaudo, rhp, Red Sox (supplemental first round):
Ranaudo entered 2010 as the draft's top-rated pitching prospect, but his stock dove after he came down with a stress reaction in his elbow following his first start. His command and stuff didn't recover until after he slipped to the No. 39 overall choice and went to the Cape Cod League, where he threw 30 innings without allowing an earned run. Convinced he was once again the pitcher scouts had expected to see, Boston gave him a $2.55 million bonus, which beat Garciaparra's previous round record and ranked eighth among 2010 draftees.
Stetson Allie, rhp, Pirates (second round):
Allie can match Taillon's stuff, making them the two most electric arms in the draft, if not his polish. Pittsburgh boldly grabbed both of them after Allie's desire for top-10-pick money dropped him to the second round, and they gave it to him with a $2.25 million bonus. The Pirates didn't stop stockpiling arms there, adding the top pitcher on the international market (Mexico's Luis Heredia) for $2.6 million three days later.
A.J. Cole, rhp, Nationals (fourth round):
Before Washington locked up Harper, it also agreed to seven-figure deals with Cole ($2 million) and second-rounder Sammy Solis ($1 million). Cole ranked right behind Taillon among high school pitching prospects at the start of the season, but a combination of an inconsistent spring and questions about his signability dropped him all the way to the fourth round. His bonus broke the round record of $1.5 million held by Max Stassi (Athletics, 2009).
Dickie Joe Thon, ss, Blue Jays (fifth round):
Baseball America rated Thon as a fourth- to sixth-round prospect, and that's where Toronto drafted the son of former all-star shortstop Dickie Thon. We also projected that he could emerge as a first-round pick after three years at Rice, and that's how the Blue Jays paid him. They gave him a $1.5 million bonus—more than nine times MLB's recommendation of $161,100 for the No. 156 pick. The deal leaked out in early July but wasn't made official until five weeks later.
Biggest Deals (Late Rounds)
Ty Linton, of, Diamondbacks (14th round):
When the Diamondbacks' deal with first-rounder Barret Loux fell apart after a failed physical, they audibled and invested their money elsewhere. On deadline day, Arizona signed sixth-rounder Blake Perry for $500,000, eighth-rounder Tyler Green for $750,000 and Linton for $1.25 million. A raw athlete who had a football scholarship from North Carolina and already had begun practice with the Tar Heels, Linton erased Dexter Fowler's 14th-round record of $925,000 (Rockies, 2004).
Jordan Shipers, lhp, Mariners (16th round):
Shipers doesn't fit a classic scouting profile, as he's a 5-foot-10, 160-pound lefthander from a Missouri high school so tiny that it doesn't have a baseball team. He flashed a plus fastball and slider at times during the spring in Iowa wood-bat leagues and the summer in the California Collegiate League. The Mariners paid Shipers $800,000 to lure him away from Missouri State, matching what they paid sandwich pick Taijuan Walker.
Robbie Ray, lhp, Nationals (12th round):
Washington's spending extended to the late rounds, as it gave Ray $799,000 in the 12th. He showed first-round potential with a mid-90s fastball and a power breaking ball at showcases last fall, then pitched more at 89-91 mph as a high school senior. A full scholarship from Arkansas gave him added leverage.
The Ones Who Got Away
Karsten Whitson, rhp, Padres (No. 9 overall):
Three first-round picks went unsigned, the most since Charles Johnson, Calvin Murray and Scott Burrell declined to turn pro in 1989. While the other two had medical concerns, Whitson simply failed to come to terms with San Diego after the two sides disagreed on what parameters they had agreed to before the draft. The Padres upped their offer to $2.75 million, matching what the Royals paid No. 4 overall choice Christian Colon, but the consensus second-best prep pitching prospect in the draft opted to attend Florida.
Dylan Covey, rhp, Brewers (No. 14 overall):
In perhaps the most shocking development on deadline day, it was revealed that Covey had been diagnosed with Type 1 diabetes following his physical with the Brewers. Milwaukee didn't consider Covey's $2 million asking price out of line, but he and his family decided it would be best if he learned to adjust to his condition while attending college close to home at San Diego. After failing to sign Covey, the Brewers had spent just $2,432,200 on the 2010 draft, the lowest total in baseball.
Ryne Stanek, rhp, Mariners (third round):
Seattle paid $900,000 to Marcus Littlewood (second round) and $800,000 each to Walker and Shipers, and reportedly offered similar money to Stanek. He might have a higher ceiling than any of them, as he has a 91-96 mph fastball and a crisp, two-plane curveball. He took that arsenal to Arkansas, where he could blossom into a first-round pick.
Barret Loux, rhp, Diamondbacks (No. 6 overall):
Loux rated as a late first-rounder or a sandwich pick, but Arizona drafted him sixth overall with designs on signing him slightly below slot at $2 million. But when he took a physical, the Diamondbacks were concerned with the wear and tear in his shoulder (where he had tenderness as a high school senior) and elbow (from which he had bone chips removed after his sophomore season at Texas A&M in 2009). Though he was healthy all spring, Arizona worried about how long he'd hold up and decided it would be better off not signing Loux and taking the No. 7 pick in a deeper 2011 draft as compensation. Rather than leave Loux in a tough situation, MLB declared the day after the signing deadline that he'd become a free agent, effective Sept. 1.
James Paxton, lhp, Mariners (fourth round):
A year ago, Paxton was one of three Blue Jays picks in the first three rounds not to agree to terms. Toronto offered him $1 million, while Paxton sought $1.35 million. Afterward, Jays president let slip to a Toronto newspaper that he had negotiated directly with agent Scott Boras, which would be a violation of NCAA rules. Kentucky wouldn't allow Paxton to return to its team until he submitted to an NCAA interview, and when he couldn't get a temporary injunction in Kentucky courts, he went to pitch in the independent American Association. His stuff wasn't as sharp this spring, as he worked mostly with an 88-93 mph fastball and a decent curve, rather than the 93-97 mph fastball and plus curve he showed with the Wildcats. While he won't get the money he turned down from Toronto, Paxton can continue to negotiate because the deadline doesn't apply to players who were: drafted after their junior year of college; didn't sign with the team that selected him before the deadline; signed a professional contact with a non-MLB-affiliated team after he was drafted; and didn't play college baseball again between the two drafts.