Twins Make Statement With Top Pick

The Twins pulled one of the biggest surprises of last week’s draft when they selected speedy prep outfielder Ben Revere with their first-round pick (28th overall), and they followed it up by being the first team to sign their first-round selection. The Twins announced Tuesday that they signed Revere for a signing bonus of $750,000, making him a potential bargain if their scouts are right.

Major League Baseball’s recommended bonus for the 28th overall slot is probably in the $1.1 million to $1.2 million range. In last year’™s draft, the Red Sox signed North Carolina righthander Daniel Bard for $1.55 million with the 28th pick.

More notably, every player in the first round last year received a signing bonus of at least $950,000. In fact, we have to go back nearly a decade to find the last first-round pick to sign for $750,000 based purely on market value. That was the 1998 draft, when the Giants signed Penn State righthander Nate Bump as the 25th overall selection. Even then, Bump was a college senior (and thus had little bargaining power) who agreed to a predraft deal.

There are a few equal or lower bonuses since then, but all involved extenuating circumstances. In the 2000 draft, the Mets had the 16th overall selection and had agreed in principle on a $1.7 million bonus with Loyola Marymount lefthander Billy Traber, when an MRI revealed a partial tear of the medial collateral ligament in his elbow. Traber eventually signed for $400,000. In the same draft, the Reds signed infielder David Espinosa to a deal with no bonus, but it was strictly to make the deal fit in their budget. They guaranteed $2.95 million to Espinosa in an eight-year major league contract.

The only other bonus that low came in 2003, when the Padres signed righthander Tim Stauffer for $750,000 after he and his agent revealed that he had weakness in his shoulder. The Padres had initially offered $2.6 million to Stauffer, but reduced the offer after the shoulder problems came to light.

So were the Twins just trying to save money with their first-round pick? It’s hard to question the motives of Mike Radcliff, baseball’s longest-tenured scouting director and one of the most respected scouts in the business. More than money, it’s likely this pick involved a strong belief in Revere from the Twins’ scouts, and in turn Radcliff’s faith in the people who work for him. If they weren’t going to take one of the high-dollar players who slipped (and the Twins likely never will be one of those teams), why not take the player you have the strongest convictions about? Revere also wasn’t a consensus first-rounder, though, so the Twins did save money at the same time rather than just handing out a slot bonus. That they were the first team to sign their first-round selection should come as no surprise.