A History Of MLB Deals, 1986-2000


1989 Draft



Two players, Baltimore’s Ben McDonald and Toronto’s John Olerud, signed three-year package deals worth in excess of $800,000. Only Kansas City’s Bo Jackson, in 1986, had ever received a multi-year deal in the past—but his three-year, $1.066 million contract was the inducement needed to buy him away from the NFL. [1990 Almanac p. 287]


. . .

(McDonald) rejected the Orioles’ first offer of $255,000 and continued to play hardball over the next two months. Negotiations broke off several times. All the while, his asking price continued to rise.

McDonald’s father, Larry, handled all negotiations with the Orioles, with legal input from California-based agent Scott Boras.

“You can’t expect Ben to sign for a figure comparable to what high school players are getting,” reasoned Boras. “It’s more like an NFL or NBA situation, because he’s so close to being an impact player in the big leagues. He’s a very, very unique talent.”

. . .

In the end McDonald signed with the Orioles, inking a three-year deal that provided a $350,000 bonus. [1990 Almanac p. 288]

. . .

In his last 22 innings for LSU, which included three appearances in the College World Series, he gave up 38 hits and 27 runs. [1990 Almanac p. 289]


Because of a near-fatal aneurysm near the base of his brain that required a six-hour operation in January, the Washington State pitcher/first baseman wasn’t selected until the third round by the Blue Jays. There had been concern (Olerud) wouldn’t sign until he was 100 percent healthy, but he became the first player from the Class of ’89 to reach the big leagues, debuting with the a base hit in early September. [1990 Almanac p. 287]



1990 Draft


The biggest bonus recipient of 1990 was schoolboy pitching sensation Todd Van Poppel, who signed a rich three-year guaranteed deal with the defending World Series champion Oakland Athletics that provided a $500,000 bonus and $1.2 million overall. It was the first multi-year contract ever signed by a high school player and only the fourth in draft history. The $1.2 million package was the largest ever. [1991 Almanac p. 288]


Competition for players was intense, none more so than for Van Poppel, a 6-foot-5 righthander from Martin High in Arlington, Texas. He was singled out as the top prospect prior to the draft, but complicated the picture by stating his desire to forego the draft and attend the University of Texas.

. . .

Convinced that Van Poppel wouldn’t budge in his desire to go to college, the Braves compromised by taking Larry (Chipper) Jones, a high school shortstop from Pierson, Fla., with the first pick.

The next 12 clubs also passed on Van Poppel, but Oakland, drafting 14th overall, decided it was worth the gamble, particularly since it had stockpiled seven draft picks in the first two rounds.

Van Poppel initially expressed displeasure at being drafted by Oakland.

“If they think they can buy me, they’re wrong,” Van Poppel said. “Money’s not everything. The things I want to do, money can’tuez was their man. buy. I’ve got to mature as a person and as a ballplayer. I think I can do that in college.” [1991 Almanac p. 288]


With input from his father Hank and advisor Scott Boras, Van Poppel began to reconsider his options over the next several weeks. Finally, on July 16, he signed a contract with Oakland that included a $500,000 cash signing bonus, plus $100,000 in salary for the rest of the 1990 season. He will be paid $200,000 in 1991 and $400,000 in 1992. [1991 Almanac p. 289]



1992 Draft


Every first-round pick in 1992 received a bonus of at least $300,000, with the exception of Angels righthander Pete Janicki, selected eighth overall. After summer-long negotiations, California signed Janicki to a deal that provided a $90,000 bonus, but also stipulated that he’d get $125,000 in salary in 1993, and payments of $155,000 and $215,000 the following two years—if he stays healthy.

Janicki hurt his arm in his final start of the year for UCLA and the Angels were reluctant to pay him the going rate unless they had assurances his arm would stand up. [1993 Almanac p. 352]



1993 Draft


No one really listened when Mariners scouting director Roger Jongewaard said a week before the draft: “If anything, I learned that you don’t go the safe way. You don’t worry about who will get there quickest.”

The public still thought Seattle’s selection would be influenced by manager Lou Piniella, who coveted a college pitcher capable of pitching for the Mariners in 1993. That meant taking Wichita State righthander Darren Dreifort, the year’s marquee quick fix. Miami high school shortstop Alex Rodriguez, considered the best long-range talent but at least two years away from the big leagues, would slip to the Dodgers at No. 2.

But it didn’t happen that way. In the final days, Jongewaard managed to convince everyone in the organization that Rodriguez was their man.

“There’s nothing wrong with Dreifort,” said Jongewaard, who with the Mets in 1980 and the Mariners in 1987 passed up proven college pitchers to take Darryl Strawberry and Ken Griffey Jr. with the draft’s top selections. “Most years with the No. 1 pick you’d feel lucky he was out there for you. But a guy like Rodriguez doesn’t come around very often.”

At Westminster Christian High, the 6-foot-3, 190-pound Rodriguez hit .505 with nine home runs as a leadoff man and stole 35 bases in 35 attempts. His quickness in the field, strong and accurate arm and deft hands make him a potential all-star major league shortstop. Many scouts called him the best position player they had evaluated in 20 years. [1994 Almanac p. 364]


Rodriguez let it be known beforehand that he wanted to be drafted by the Dodgers at No. 2 because he could play several times a year near his Miami hometown. He called the Mariners and reinforced that stand the night before the draft. Seattle took him anyway, figuring it still could convince him to sign.

With a scholarship to the University of Miami and hard-line agent Scott Boras at his side, Rodriguez immediately insisted on a $2.5 million bonus with a major league contract. Never before had a player received more than $1.55 million [which the Yankees bestowed on ’91 first-overall draft pick Brien Taylor], and baseball scoffed at such demands.

But Rodriguez’s family, primarily his sister Susy Dunand, remained steadfast and asked that all negotiations go through her first.

The Mariners made their first offer to Rodriguez on the phone after midnight in late June . . .

Dunand, on Boras’ advice, then insisted that the Mariners communicate with them only via fax.

“At this point, I don’t trust them,” Dunand said . . . “I was up-front with them before the draft and after. They broke very simple ground rules. This is a negotiation and they’ll go to the weakest person, the player.”

. . .

Rodriguez decided amidst all the arguing around him that he simply wanted to be a professional baseball player.

Hours before Rodriguez was to go to school, he decided to accept a decidedly smaller sum.

. . .

Rodriguez sounded exhausted at a press conference the afternoon after the 3 a.m. Aug. 30 signing.

“I’m glad the negotiations are over,” said Rodriguez, 18. “It’s been a long process. I never wanted this to be a bad thing, a long summer thing. One day I’ll get my market value, when I prove myself an impact player. I just want to get started.

“Most of the summer, I thought I was headed for school. Education is very important to me. At the time, I didn’t like what was offered or how the negotiations were handled.” [1994 Almanac p. 364]



1998 Draft


Most teams quietly admitted that they had hoped Oakland would select J.D. Drew [at No. 2 overall], knowing that the Cardinals [choosing fifth] had paid Boras client Rick Ankiel, a second-round choice in 1997, a then-draft record $2.5 million bonus the previous summer.

“Obviously, there’s a lot of pressure on the Cardinals to handle the Drew situation with due diligence,” one scouting director said. “The whole industry will be paying attention.”

What the industry saw was the Cardinals quickly agreeing to terms with Drew on a complicated four-year major league contract with a $3 million signing bonus and . . . incentives that could bring the total value of the contract to $8.5 million.

Drew made all the contract negotiations appear almost anticlimactic after his long-awaited professional debut. He made quick three-week stops in Double-A and Triple-A before making his major league debut for the Cardinals the night Mark McGwire hit his 61st home run. [1999 Almanac p. 390]


The chain reaction to the Drew contract started almost immediately, with the most obvious losers being the Phillies. Faced with the possibility of losing their first pick for the second straight year or topping Drew’s St. Louis contract, Philadelphia quickly negotiated a five-year major league deal with Burrell that included a $3.15 million bonus and guarantees that brought the total value to $8 million. Thus they ended up paying Burrell, a lesser player by all accounts than Drew, significantly more than they had offered Drew less than two months before.

. . . Burrell had just been guaranteed more money than the defending World Series champion Marlins were spending on their entire 1998 major league roster.

One important factor that the Burrell and Drew contracts introduced into other players’ negotiations was the major league contract that allowed payments to be spread over several years. Boras, anticipating this change in the market, also demanded similarly structured contracts for Stanford pitchers Jeff Austin and Chad Hutchinson . . .  [1999 Almanac p. 390]


Hutchinson was considered to have perhaps the top arm in the country, but slid to the No. 48 slot because of his often repeated desire to continue to play quarterback for the Stanford football team, and the fact that he had turned down $1.6 million from the Braves out of high school. Perhaps not coincidentally, Hutchinson was also picked by the Cardinals and agreed to a $3.4 million contract, including a $2.3 million signing bonus. He agreed to give up his football career as part of the contract. [1999 Almanac p. 391]



1999 Draft


The Marlins were adamantly opposed initially to giving Josh Beckett a major league deal . . . Only two major league contracts had ever been given to high school players: Todd Van Poppel by the Athletics in 1990 and Alex Rodriguez by the Mariners in 1993.

Beckett and adviser Michael Moye originally sought a bonus in the $8 million-$10 million range. The Marlins were prepared to pay about half that—about the same amount Josh Hamilton signed for [as the No. 1 overall pick by the Devil Rays]—and focused their early attention instead on Venezuelan shortstop Miguel Cabrera, who signed for $1.8 million. In Cabrera, the club said it already had signed a top-of-the-draft talent in 1999 and believed that would give it leverage in dormant discussions with Beckett.

Bu ton Aug. 26, four day sbefore Beckett was scheduled ot enroll at Blinn (Texas) JC, the Marlins caved in and gave Beckett a $7 million major league deal that included a $3.625 million bonus . . .

Marlins general manager Dave Dombrowski defended the club’s signing of Beckett.

“You’re talking about a 19-year-old pitcher, not a 17-year-old pitcher,” he said. “You’re talking about someone with a lot of talent. I think there are a lot of other organizations who, if they were given the same opportunity, would have done that and given (Beckett) a big league contract.” [2000 Almanac p. 397]


ME: As GM of the Tigers, Dombrowski signed off on similar pacts with prep righthanders Rick Porcello in 2007 and Jacob Turner in ’09.


Eric Munson agreed to terms with the Tigers quickly on a four-year, $6.75 million deal . . .  (He) received a $3.5 million bonus as part of his package (and) was assigned to low Class A West Michigan to begin his professional career.

. . .

“History has shown that it’s easier for pitchers to move faster than it is for hitters,” Tigers general manager Randy Smith said. “But I wouldn’t bet against (Munson). We expect him to be here quickly.”

Because Munson missed much of the 1999 college season because of a broken hand [the result of a crossup with Southern California teammate and fellow ’99 first-rounder Barry Zito], placing him at Double-A Jacksonville wasn’t considered by the Tigers.

“Beginning at West Michigan will present a good challenge for Eric because he hasn’t played that much this year,” Smith said. “There will be an adjustment period for him.” [2000 Almanac p. 397]



2000 Draft


The Reds selected arguably the best shortstop (Miami high schooler David Espinosa at No. 23) and the top catcher (Pepperdine’s Dane Sardinha at No. 46). Both could have gone in the first five picks had the draft been based purely on ability, but both slid because of signability concerns.

Espinosa and Sardinha were represented by Scott Boras, who saw all but two of his nine draft clients last past the first round. Boras said the reason his players slipped was that they refused to participate in what he called price-fixing.

“The draft does not represent the order of talent anymore,” Boras said. “It represents a fit between your player and a team, the economic considerations of you and a team that drafts you.”

Getting Espinosa and Sardinha signed with the Reds, who had severe signing-budget problems, took a unique approach. Espinosa, who reportedly sought a $4 million bonus before the draft, got $4 million less. He accepted no bonus as part of an eight-year major league contract that guarantees him $2.95 million and could be worth $5 million via incentives and roster bonuses. He joined Todd Van Poppel (1990), Alex Rodriguez (1993) and Josh Beckett (1999) as the only high school players in the draft era to receive a big league contract.

Sardinha also signed for no bonus. He took a six-year major league contract that will be worth between $1.95 million and $2.4 million, depending on incentives and roster bonuses.


California third baseman Xavier Nady, the top-rated college prospect at the outset of the season, lasted until No. 49 because he sought a contract in line with Eric Munson’s. Eventually the Padres gave him a four-year big league deal, though it was worth just $2.85 million, including a $1.1 million bonus. Nady became the first 2000 draftee to teach the majors, stroking a single off Los Angeles’ Onan Masaoka on Sept. 30.


Baylor shortstop Jace Brewer, a draft-eligible sophomore, wrote all 30 major league teams before the draft, asking them not to select him because he needed another year to refine his skills. The Devil Rays, who didn’t have picks in the second, third and fourth rounds because of free agent signings, took him in the fifth round. They signed him to a big league contract worth $1.5 million over four years, including a $450,000 bonus.