No. 1 Pick Upton Close To Signing

By Alan Matthews
January 6, 2006

Justin Upton, the No. 1 pick in the 2005 draft, and the Arizona Diamondbacks are close to finalizing a deal that includes the largest signing bonus for a player signing with the team that drafted him.

Upton’s advisor Larry Reynolds said Friday that the deal had not been finalized. Reynolds termed reports that Upton will receive a signing bonus of $6 million as, “not 100 percent accurate. (Six million) is a little low,” Reynolds said. “It’s in that range . . . It’s going to be pretty strong.”

The previous record bonus was $5.3 million the White Sox paid Stanford outfielder Joe Borchard, the first pick in the 2000 draft. Matt White signed for a $10.2 million bonus as an amateur free agent in 1996 with the Devil Rays, which remains the all-time bonus record.

Upton was the consensus top player available in the 2005 draft. He was Baseball America’s 2005 High School Player of the Year after batting .519-11-32 in 54 at-bats as a senior at Great Bridge High in Chesapeake, Va., homering every 4.9 at-bats.

He was expected to fly Monday to Arizona, where the contract will be finalized after he takes a physical and attends a press conference to make an official announcement.

“We still have a couple of minor deals to make it final, we’ve agreed in principle to terms, but we’re not 100 percent done,” Reynolds said. “But we’ve agreed on numbers and stuff.

“They have a new regime over there and (Diamondbacks general manager) Josh Byrnes came in and, frankly, did a good job.”

The Diamondbacks’ original offer to Upton following the draft included a bonus reportedly near $4 million. In October, Arizona hired Byrnes to replace former GM Joe Garagiola Jr., who resigned in August. Calls to Byrnes and Diamondbacks scouting director Mike Rizzo were not immediately returned.

Upton, the younger brother of Devil Rays shortstop B.J. Upton, had committed to North Carolina State but opted not to enroll when classes began. As negotiations stalled, he was considering playing this spring at Louisburg (N.C.) Junior College and would have had to enroll by Jan. 16 to be eligible. Once he attended class at Louisburg, the Diamondbacks would have had to wait until the completion of his junior college season before resuming negotiations.

Instead, it appears Upton will be in a Diamondbacks uniform when spring training begins.

“Justin wants to go play pro baseball,” Reynolds said.