Max Scherzer joined the Diamondbacks with moments to spare.
Scherzer, the last remaining unsigned first-round pick from the 2006 draft, agreed in principle to a four-year major league contract worth $4.3 million in guaranteed money, pending the approval of Major League Baseball. He came to terms with the club minutes before the 11:59 p.m. ET deadline, after which he would have re-entered the 2007 draft.
Scherzer's deal included a $3 million bonus. Incentives could push its total value to $5.85 million.
Diamondbacks officials were unavailable for comment.
Scherzer, a righthander from the University of Missouri, was the 11th player selected in the 2006 draft. He entered the year as the top righthanded pitching prospect in the draft after throwing in the mid- to upper 90s as a sophomore. But he came down with biceps tendinitis, which took a toll on his stuff and concerned several clubs.
Rather than sign immediately with Arizona, he opted instead to work out at agent Scott Boras’ facility in Newport Beach, Calif., before joining the independent Fort Worth Cats (American Association) in April. Scherzer went 1-0 with an 0.56 ERA in three starts for Fort Worth, striking out 25 in 16 innings as his fastball was clocked in the mid-90s. His fourth start was rained out each of the last three days.
Baseball America rated Scherzer 17th on its Top 200 Draft Prospects list, projecting him as a mid-first-round talent. While he showed plenty of velocity at Fort Worth, the life on his fastball was less impressive, as were his slider and command. Several scouts consider Scherzer more of a late-inning reliever than a frontline starter, and his deal is in line with the $4 million big league deal the Red Sox gave St. John's closer Craig Hansen as the 26th pick in the 2005 draft. Hansen also is represented by Boras.
Arizona is expected to give Scherzer, 22, a chance to be a starter. He could begin his minor league career at high Class A Visalia.
Early in the negotiating process, Boras contended that Scherzer and Luke Hochevar (another of his clients) were the top two pitchers in the 2006 draft. Hochevar signed a $5.25 million major league contract as the No. 1 overall pick by the Royals after tuning up with Fort Worth. Hochevar failed to sign with the Dodgers as a supplemental first-rounder in 2005.
The Diamondbacks are no strangers to deadline talks with Boras, having signed shortstop Stephen Drew with 15 minutes to spare in 2005. Drew, their 2004 first-rounder, got a big league deal with a $5.5 million guarantee.
Draft negotiations never will go this long again. Under the terms of the new collective bargaining agreement, all draftees face an Aug. 15 signing deadline.
Jack Magruder covers the Diamondbacks for the East Valley Tribune (Mesa, Ariz.) and Baseball America.