2013 MLB Draft Signings Central
Welcome to Baseball America’s 2013 MLB Draft Signings Central. We’ll use this space to highlight all signings for $750,000 or more, plus any other significant transactions. We’ll also cover many [...]
Evolution Of The Bonus Record
June 4, 2005
Reliable information on signing bonuses in the pre-draft era is sketchy, with bonuses often intertwined with a player’s salary, distorted to circumvent rules of the time, or in the case of under-the-table payments, going unreported altogether.
There was no systematic method of paying out bonuses in those days, unlike now when half the signing bonus is generally paid upon approval of the contract and the other half in the next calendar year. In many cases, the top bonuses of the pre-draft period were paid out over several years—10 in the case of Paul Pettit, baseball’s first $100,000 bonus baby.
On the basis of research conducted by Baseball America founding editor Allan Simpson, here is the progression of signing bonus in the pre-draft era, beginning with Dick Wakefield’s $52,000 bonus—the unofficial start of baseball’s bonus era:
Here's how the bonus record evolved in the draft era, beginning with the $100,000 bonus the Athletics paid to Rick Monday, the first pick in the first draft. The figures represent bonuses in real dollars, with no regard to benefits from college scholarship plans or incentive bonus plans—or guaranteed bonus money in the cases when a player signed a major league contract (denoted with an asterisk). The list considers only players who signed with the clubs that drafted them and does not include the four loophole free agents from 1996—most notably Diamondbacks first baseman Travis Lee, who set a bonus record by signing for $10 million, or Devil Rays righthander Matt White, who quickly broke it when he signed for $10.2 million.
Beginning with Bo Jackson, who broke the existing draft record in 1986 by signing a major league contract that guaranteed him $1.066 million over a three-year period, here’s the progression of record major league deals signed by drafted players, with the amount of the contract and bonus payment noted.