Tradition Of Excellence

Dodgers' pitching history helped persuade Zach Lee to sign





LOS ANGELES—In the end it wasn't just money that persuaded first-round draft pick Zach Lee to sign with the Dodgers. It was tradition, opportunity and some clever suggestions from assistant general manager Logan White.

The cash—$5.25 million spread over five years, more than double the largest draft bonus in franchise history—certainly didn't hurt. Most clubs considered Lee, a 6-foot-4, 195-pound righthander with room to grow, to be unsignable. One of the nation's top prep quarterbacks in 2009, Lee started summer classes at Louisiana State two days after the June draft and football practice shortly afterward.

But the Dodgers had a trump card: a history of developing young pitchers. White played up that history, from Sandy Koufax and Don Drysdale to Chad Billingsley and fellow Texan Clayton Kershaw. All were in the majors by the age of 21. White said Lee, who will be 19 when he makes his professional debut next season, could follow that path.

"It's a pretty good track record. That really played more of a factor," said Lee, who was also eyeing an NFL career.

White negotiated by phone with Lee's father Steve; Zach said he wasn't brought into the conversation until just hours before a deal was reached. To help make the deal happen, White found a newspaper article in which pro football standouts talked about the enormous pressure placed on young players in the NFL. Those initials, the article said, stood for Not For Long.

"I made sure they saw it," White said.

At the same time, White brought up Kurt Warner, who didn't reach the NFL until he was 27 yet went on to win two MVP awards and a Super Bowl title.

"I said, 'You'll know long before then if you're going to play in the major leagues or not. Sign and let's go play. And you know what? You can always go back and play football later in life and still get to the NFL,' " White said.

After a whirlwind visit to Los Angeles, where he saw both Dodger Stadium and L.A. freeway traffic,Lee headed to the team's minor league facility in Arizona to prepare for instructional league in September.

L.A. CONFIDENTIAL

• On deadline day the cost-conscious Dodgers also went well over slot to sign 11th-round selection Joc Pederson, a two-sport standout from Palo Alto, Calif. The lefthanded-hitting outfielder got a $600,000 bonus. The only one of the Dodgers' first 14 picks not to sign was Colorado prep righthander Kevin Gausman, a sixth-round pick who will play at LSU.

• The Dodgers agreed to four-year extensions with four of their affiliates: Triple-A Albuquerque, Double-A Chattanooga, low Class A Great Lakes and Rookie-level Ogden. They are negotiating a similar extension with high Class A Inland Empire.